The China Post staff
The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday finalized a draft statute for giving a monthly allowance of NT$3,000 to senior citizens over the age of 65 starting in January 2002. In spite of serious government financial squeeze and the defeat of the bill in the Legislative Yuan last year, President Chen Shui-bian is determined to pay out the allowance, which is one of his major campaign pledges when running for president last year. Chen expressed again his determination to honor his promise when he recently met a group of legislators of his ruling Democratic Progressive Party. At the prodding of the president, the MOI called yesterday a coordination of officials from the MOE, the Ministry of Finance, the Council for Economic Planning and Development, and the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting & Statistics.
Vice Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang said the welfare allowance will be only a temporary measure to give financial support before a national annuity program is implemented. One major change from a previous version which was rejected by lawmakers is the exclusion of eight kinds of people as recipients of the allowance. The eight categories of people ineligible for the allowance include those who: 1) have received government care for a secure living; 2) have drawn insurance payment; 3) are receiving medium- and low-income allowance; 4) are drawing older farmers allowance; 5) are veterans receiving a monthly stipend; 6) are paid with monthly retirement pension as for former government employees; 7) still draw a high income or possess high-valued real estate properties; and 8) are now imprisoned. MOI officials estimate about 440,000 people in Taiwan will benefit from the new statute. The government will have to spend around NT$16 billion on the program each year. There is a much greater chance for lawmakers to pass the draft rules into a statute for implementation on Jan. 1 after they return for a new session in mid-September. With the approach of new legislative election in December, few lawmakers like to offend over 400,000 voters and their family members. The other favorable factor for the bill is that the MOI has now excluded many rich senior citizens from the long list of recipients. Many lawmakers objected a previous draft statute mainly because it also offered NT$3,000 to super-rich people who are really in no need of an allowance from the government.