Infrastructure bill passes first hurdle

By Stephanie Chao and Alan Fong, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The NT$880 billion infrastructure plan spearheaded by the Tsai Ing-wen administration passed first reading at the Legislative Yuan on Monday, amid clashes between opposing party lawmakers.

The draft of the Special Act for Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan will now go for an up-or-down vote by lawmakers without need for further interparty negotiations.

The day started relatively peacefully as opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers took to the rostrum at the Legislative Yuan Economics Committee to speak again the bill, which they call a wasteful spending spree favoring local governments governed by ruling party chiefs. Tension began to raise after Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the convener of the Legislative Yuan Economics Committee ended the discussion and began reciting the articles of the bill in a move to pass it for the first reading.

KMT lawmakers attempted to take over the rostrum from Chiu and threw water at the DPP lawmakers stopping them.

KMT whip Liao Kuo-tung and several other pan-blue legislators picked up a desk at the committee room and pushed it toward Chiu but were again stopped by DPP lawmakers. Liao then jumped on the desk, stamping on it until it broke.

The clash lasted around 20 minutes before Chiu announced the end of the session and that the committee had completed its review of the bill.

Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) called for unity after the bill’s chaotic first reading in the morning. National development should be a bipartisan issue, he said.

DPP caucus secretary-general Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said he had not expected the physical confrontations at the committee. He also said that President Tsai was “a little upset” that Cabinet ministries had failed to give enough explanation and promotion for the infrastructure plan. Pension Reform Also Wednesday, rival camps dug in at the first of two scheduled public hearings on pension reform at the Legislative Yuan. Civil Service Minister Chou Hung-hsien (周弘憲) said the government-led pension reform efforts were a way to lessen the fiscal pressure on the pension system, in hopes of achieving balance with civil servants’ rights.

The money saved from this round of reforms would be directed into the Public Service Pension Fund for sustainability, a key difference when compared to past reform proposals, Chou said.

However, opponents of the reform plans continued to push back. “A wrong policy is more terrifying than corruption,” National Civil Servant Association Director Lee Lai-hsi (李來希) said. The Legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee has scheduled the second public hearing for Thursday. The dates were decided last week after preliminary review in the committee fell through due to vigorous opposition from the KMT and protesters outside the Legislature.