TAIPEI (CNA) — The government will use fiscal surpluses in the past two years to help the needy, further stimulate the economy and take on African swine fever (ASF), Vice Premier Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉) said Jan. 8.
The plan on how to use the surpluses, dubbed an “economic dividend” by the government, was unveiled on Jan. 8 in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) New Year’s Day address, in which she said the funds should be used for the needy so they can benefit from the country’s economic growth.
“One focal point of government policy efforts in 2019 is to make an all-out effort to enhance people’s livelihoods and take better care of young people and the disadvantaged,” Tsai said in the address.
Taiwan’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.08 percent in 2017, beating 1.51 percent in 2016 and 0.51 percent in 2015. GDP growth for 2018 has been projected to hit 2.66 percent.
It has resulted in higher than expected tax revenues and lower than expected spending that the government said has erased projected budget deficits in 2017 and 2018.
While the plan on how to use the money has yet to be finalized, Shih denied local media reports that it will be used to give people earning less than NT$30,000 (US$974) a monthly subsidy of NT$10,000 each.
The rumored plan sparked criticism at a time when the country has NT$5.3 trillion in total debt as of November. According to Shih, by using the “economic dividend”, the government will give subsidies to the needy, young children, the elderly and low-income households.
At the news conference, Finance Minister Su Jain-rong (蘇建榮) said the government had a fiscal surplus of NT$17.5 billion in 2017 after a budget deficit of NT$132 billion had been projected.
That was in contrast to figures on the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics showing Taiwan’s central government running a budget deficit of NT$9.68 billion in 2017.
Su said another surplus is expected for 2018 and is estimated at NT$21.1 billion.
That means the government is expected to have a total surplus of NT$38.6 billion to use to help the needy, further stimulate the economy and fight AFS, and it will not be necessary for the government to raise funds to do so, Su said.
Authorities in Taiwan have deep concerns that the current outbreak of ASF in China could spread to Taiwan and Kinmen, which is only about 2 kilometers east of the mainland Chinese city of Xiamen.
Shih said the use of the surplus will be for one-time expenses and that if any money is left after the spending, it will be used to repay debt.
He said the Cabinet will carefully listen to the Legislative Yuan and the public before coming up with details on a spending plan.
By Ku Chuan, Yu Hsiang and Frances Huang