Taiwan’s COVID-19 response could reach NT$1 trillion: premier

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) / CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taiwan government’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic could reach as much as NT$1 trillion (US$33 billion), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a legislative hearing on Tuesday.

Such a figure would more adequately reflect the global nature of the crisis than the NT$60 billion special budget the Executive Yuan proposed in February, when the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak was mainly limited to China, Su said.

In an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan, opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lee De-wei (李德維) asked Su to detail the timing and scale of response measures being planned by the government, inquiring whether it would seek anything on the scale of Singapore’s recently announced S$48 billion (US$33.65 billion) stimulus plan.

“The overall scale will likely be around NT$1 trillion,” Su said, arguing that the size of various countries’ response measures will vary based on a variety of factors.

In the United States, for example, people use private, rather than public insurance, while Taiwan uses the National Health Insurance program. Differences in countries’ circumstances or overall sizes mean their responses will vary, he said.

More specifically, Su said, the government will reallocate NT$40 billion in existing funds to tackle the crisis, which, combined with the earlier bill, would equal NT$100 billion.

Beyond that, Taiwan’s Central Bank could inject up to NT$200 billion into the market, while other public funds could contribute NT$400 billion, he said, with total public expenditure of NT$1 trillion possible, based on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Kolas Yotaka re-emphasized the NT$1 trillion figure during an interview later that day, noting that the expenditure would amount to around 5 percent of Taiwan’s GDP.

In addition to the NT$60 billion special budget and the NT$40 billion in fund reallocation requested by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the Central Bank, postal savings system and state-owned banks have also authorized financing of up to NT$700 billion, Kolas said.

The government also plans to request another NT$100 billion via special budget, she said, adding that it will make a formal proposal in the “near term.”

While the government is still holding talks on the allocation of stimulus funds, ideas under consideration include cash payments to private citizens, as well as bailouts for the restaurant, aviation, transportation, tourism and hotel industries, she said.

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