Flood prevention budget stalls in Legislative Yuan

The China Post staff

A special NT$33 billion budget for flood prevention construction along the Keelung River failed to make it through the Legislative Yuan yesterday as negotiations between ruling and opposition party lawmakers broke down. Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Her Jyh-huei said that the budgeting now had no chance of being passed before the end of the current session. If the Executive Yuan wants to get its proposal approved, President Chen Shui-bian will have to formally ask the Legislative Yuan to hold an extraordinary session, she said. Her went on to add another condition to the budget’s passage. Taipei City will have to be given some NT$1.9 billion in subsidies for its own flood prevention works for the proposed budget to have a chance, she said. Negotiations to get the bill sent directly to a second reading reportedly broke down over that point. “Pan-blue alliance” lawmakers interpreted the omission of funding for the nation’s capital as part of a war the Executive Yuan is waging against Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to be facing an uphill battle against the widely popular Ma, one of the KMT’s more charismatic politicians. His opponent in the elections will most likely be outgoing Executive Yuan secretary general Lee Ying-yuan, who has been actively making the case for the proposed budget in the past two days. Lee said that the budget was designed so that money was being spent where it was needed the most.

He denied that any political considerations went into drawing up the budget, saying that Taipei City would actually be the biggest beneficiary of flood prevention works along the Keelung River. Executive Yuan budget director Lin Chuan also reminded lawmakers that under law the government could only subsidize construction that was being done on Keelung River itself. Flood prevention work involving tributaries or bridges, the projects for which Taipei City is seeking subsidies, are to be paid for by local governments, Lin said. With the breakdown in negotiations over the budget, ruling party lawmakers warned that the opposition would have to bear the political consequences of their actions. Executive Yuan spokesman Chuang Suo-hang said that the government would continue working with lawmakers in the hopes of getting the budget approved. Please see FLOOD on page

But he also said that failure to approve the budgeting before the Legislature goes into recess could affect the construction progress. Originally, the Executive Yuan hoped to start contracting out works over the summer after getting funding approved, Chuan said. In that case, construction should be able to begin as early as October during Taiwan’s drier period. According to Chuang, Premier Yu Shyi-kun telephoned Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng last week before sending the budget for review on Friday to explain the severity of the situation. Yu reportedly asked Wang to get the proposal reviewed before the summer break.

But according to Wang, the Executive Yuan was too slow in preparing the budget for review. If the premier wanted the proposal reviewed before the Legislature begins its recess, he should have proposed the budget a week earlier, he said. The schedule for the final days was set last Tuesday in a committee meeting, Wang said, adding that there was no way to get the draft approved given the Executive Yuan’s delay.