The Cabinet’s four-page budget report on a COVID-19 relief program is “crude,” the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) said yesterday, adding that a national vaccine task force should be created to ensure Taiwan’s access to new vaccines.
The TPP caucus received an Executive Yuan report dated Monday that describes the government’s plans for COVID-19 relief, TPP Legislator Chiu Chen-yuan (邱臣遠) told a news conference in Taipei, adding that the report was compiled at the party’s request during legislative reviews in May.
Citing the report, Chiu said that the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ NT$420 billion (US$14.75 billion) budget includes NT$1.7 million in personnel costs, NT$15.3 million in operational expenses and NT$170 million in subsidies.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
However, the report was just four pages long, and did not explain the purpose of the expenditures or itemize individual expenses, he said.
The pandemic is showing no sign of improvement in other countries and instead appears to have become part of the normal state of affairs, he said.
Should current trends persist, the pandemic would increase the strain on financial institutions, while the government’s measures to stabilize banks and aid debtors cannot go on indefinitely, Chiu said.
The government should exercise fiscal discipline and monitor banks’ liquidity levels to avoid a surge in bad debt, he said.
TPP caucus whip Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) said that the party supported the relief program after making clear its expectation that the government would present a full account of it.
“However, our caucus has received an implementation report of a scant few pages,” Lai said. “I wonder if the optimism [the report] espouses is an accurate representation of reality.”
Businesses continue to lay off employees, despite subsidies, she said, adding that the Ministry of Labor should consider policies that would directly help workers through the Lunar New Year.
TPP Legislator Tsai Pi-ru (蔡壁如) said that the pandemic is expected to worsen over winter, but Taiwan’s relatively successful management of the virus means that the nation might be prioritized lower than Western nations in vaccine distribution programs.
Taiwan has not developed its own COVID-19 vaccine to date, Tsai said.
The government should create a national vaccine task force to boost support for domestic pharmaceutical firms involved in vaccine research, in addition to striving for foreign vaccines, she said.
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