700,000 people buy stimulus vouchers at post offices

Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍, second left) at a post office in Taichung Wednesday (photo courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications)

TAIPEI (CNA) — On the first day of availability, nearly 700,000 people purchased government-issued stimulus vouchers at post offices across Taiwan as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Although the number exceeded estimates of 600,000, crowd control measures worked well on the first day when people were able to buy NT$3,000 (US$101.72) in vouchers for NT$1,000, despite some glitches, according to state-owned Chunghwa Post Co.

The system crashed at 9:49 a.m. but was restored within 13 minutes, the post office said, adding that the process generally went smoothly at its 1,299 branches around Taiwan.

As some post offices will remain open until 9 p.m., more vouchers are expected to be bought, the company said.

Other than in Taipei and Kaohsiung, pick-ups of pre-ordered vouchers at convenience stores encountered more problems.

Some people were forced to line up for long periods of time and several gave up faced with long delays, convenience stores reported.

Although the vouchers can be used from Wednesday amid government efforts to make up for weakened consumption in the first five months of the year due to COVID-19 worries, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) criticized their distribution as user-unfriendly at a press conference.

The system is not stable, and real time information on the number of vouchers at local post offices is not correct, the party said.

There is also a lack of manpower helping the disadvantaged, the party said, adding that pick-up periods at convenience stores should be extended from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. to round-the-clock as with the mask rationing system.

Meanwhile, Academia Sinica said it expects the NT$50 billion program to boost GDP by 0.2-0.3 percentage point this year.

The top research institution in Taiwan has downgraded its forecast for GDP growth in 2020 from 2.58 percent, an estimate made at the end of last year, to 1.15 percent, saying the impact of COVID-19 on global demand has hurt Taiwan’s export-oriented economy, as well as domestic private consumption.

Under the program, foreign residents in Taiwan, including hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Southeast Asia, are not eligible to receive the vouchers unless they have a Taiwanese spouse, and the government has provided no explanation as to why foreign residents have been excluded from the program.

Many people eligible to purchase the vouchers have pre-ordered them online for collection at convenience stores. The post office is being used to provide vouchers to those who want to buy them on the spot.

A man collects stimulus vouchers at a post office counter Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of CNA)