2001 budget inconsistent: lawmakers

The China Post staff

Lawmakers from both the opposition and the ruling camps said yesterday the Cabinet newly finalized 2001 budget has revealed inconsistencies in the government�s polices.

There was not much difference with regard to the way of thinking between the old and the new governments, they said. Social welfare, education, science and technology programs, and national defense will remain the areas that receive the most funding under the budget, if passed by the legislature.

�So I can�t really tell the difference between the old and the new government when it comes to the budget,” said Lai Shyh-bao, a New Party legislator.

�The budget has also exposed the new government�s short-sighted mindset,” said Lai.

Funding for welfare programs and subsidies planned for various purposes have increased in 2000 at the cost of environmental protection and community development plans.

�This is an example of the government�s lack of forward thinking,” the lawmaker said.

People First Party lawmaker Diane Lee echoed Lai�s view, saying the budget in fact counters what was promised by President Chen Shui-bian�s campaign of delivering better welfare plans and creating a environment friendly technology island.

The government is also overly optimistic about its income, said Lee.

The securities transaction tax revenues, for instance, have been overestimated, she said. The budget estimates a total income of NT$112 billion from this area, up from NT$83.6 billion in the 2000 budget.

“How can this be possible? Just take a look at our share prices and the stock market turnover these days and you will find that the budget is full of impractical hopes,” she said.

In addition, the budget has also contradicted the government�s vow to put an end soon to corruption, said Lai. Administration fees for investigations would shrink by 33% in 2001 from this year, according to the budget.

Lee Wen-chung of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party criticized the 1 percent rise of personnel fees included in the national defense budget.

Around 54 percent of the defense budget is designed as salaries or pension fees, more than double the 25 percent in most advanced countries, said Lee.

DPP Secretary-general Wu Nai-jen, who has been a unrelenting critic of the Cabinet, said the budget is too difficult for the party to stomach.

The party will remain impartial in reviewing the budget, said Wu.

But some DPP lawmakers defend the budget, among them Hsu Tain-tsair.

Hsu said the budget was based on what the country needs most and is the best the government can offer within its limitations.

The government�s planned subsidies for making up losses in the national health insurance program shows the government�s resolve in getting the nation�s messy finances in order, said Hsu.