Economy, housing justice high on Cabinet's priority list

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) Premier Sean Chen said Thursday that his Cabinet will focus on revitalizing the economy, taking care of the less privileged and achieving housing justice to ensure that all people can live in Taiwan with peace of mind. Chen told ruling party lawmakers that his Cabinet will seek to have the Legislature pass 53 draft bills, including the budget bill and a bill on long-term care for the elderly. Economically, Chen said, a task force will be formed to cope with the changes in the global economic situation, with an aim to stabilize the financial sector and consumer prices, create job opportunities, promote investments, help the private sector, boost domestic consumption and increase exports. All these strategies revolve around two pillars of the economy: domestic demand and exports, which are expected to induce a steady growth of the economy, according to Chen. To realize social justice, he continued, the government will introduce new mechanisms to render assistance to low-income people, help the unemployed find jobs and help poor families get out of poverty. The government is also moving to build an integrated child-care system and legislate long-term care for the elderly, while continuing to improve the national health care system, Chen said. Breifing lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang, the premier said his Cabinet will try to achieve housing justice through a series of policy initiatives such as subsidizing home buyers and helping young people buy their first homes. Other policy initiatives in this regard include building "social" and "reasonably priced" housing units for low-income households as well as mandating registration of actual prices in real estate transactions, he added. He said other priority goals for his Cabinet include the protection of the environment and the promotion of cultural and creative industries. To better protect the environment, he said, the government will design incentives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage energy saving appliances and practices. For that purpose, the Cabinet will ask the Legislative Yuan to pass draft bills on cutting carbon dioxide emissions and collecting energy consumption tax, he said. To develop the cultural industry, he said the government will establish a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and developing cultural creativity projects. The government will also work to help the private sector expand overseas markets and seek a more balanced development of the rural and urban areas, Chen added. The draft bills that Chen's Cabinet has prepared for the new legislative session include those on refugees, mergers of financial institutions, rezoning administrative areas, and sharing of tax revenues between the central and local governments. Chen will present his report the next day to the Legislature, where opposition lawmakers said they may boycott the event in protest against the government's handling of a controversy over whether to lift a ban on the import of U.S. beef grown with feed additives. As the pan-green camp of Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers prepared to make an issue out of the beef import controversy, ruling Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Nai-hsin said he will ask how Chen is going to implement his administrative plan. (By Chen Wei-ting, Sherry Tang, Justin Su, Wen Kui-hsiang and S.C Chang)