Cabinet approves NT$60 billion budget bill to cope with coronavirus

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Cabinet approved a NT$60 billion (US$1.96 billion) special budget bill Thursday to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, two days after the nation’s lawmaking body passed a bill to that end.

The budget bill will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for final approval.

Of the NT$60 billion proposed budget, NT$40.4 billion will be used to help hard-hit local businesses.

Meanwhile, NT$19.6 billion will be spent to provide social assistance and to boost the nation’s healthcare system, according to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).

According to DGBAS tallies, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) will use more than NT$20.4 billion of the total to offer subsidies and loans to business sectors that are most heavily affected by the outbreak and to boost domestic demand, which is flagging due to the drop in the number of arriving foreign travelers.

It will also be used to build new mask production lines, to buy surgical masks from local manufactures and to help them to export masks overseas in the future, according to the DGBAS.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare will use NT$16.9 billion of the total budget, mostly to help local hospitals to build more isolation wards and prepare related medical supplies.

Of the NT$16.9 billion, NT$1.8 billion will be used to pay for compensation claims to be made by individuals who have to undergo quarantine.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications will be given NT$16.7 billion, which is scheduled to be spent on compensating the hard-hit transportation and tourism sectors, it added.

The Council of Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Education, meanwhile, are each to be given NT$3.5 billion, NT$800 million and NT$580 million, respectively, to boost the agriculture sectors, cultural and entertainment businesses, and to offer epidemic prevention supplies to schools nationwide, respectively, it added.

During Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) also announced that the MOEA will spend NT$90 million to build another 30 production lines to make 2 to 3 million more surgical masks per day in the near future to meet surging demand.

Prior to this, the Cabinet had approved a plan in January to build 60 additional lines to produce surgical masks.

After all these 60 new production lines begin operation on March 9, the country will be making a total of 10 million face masks per day, according to the MOEA.