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Legislators question 'Big Warmth' effects

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Legislators question 'Big Warmth' effects

Legislators yesterday questioned the expected effects of the first three-year "Big Warmth" project that highlights the government's social welfare policy for the next three years.
The "Big Warmth" social welfare package is the first of the three three-year projects that the Cabinet formulated for the country's social and economic development. According to a report presented to the Legislature's Health, Environment and Social Welfare Committee yesterday, there are 12 main implantation plans in the "Big Warmth" social welfare package, which consist of both new and existing plans, to spotlight the government's focus on taking care of the disadvantaged.
Seven of the 12 plans would be under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, including a project to address poverty, a 10-year project for a long-term care system for the elderly, a plan to promote a national pension system, and a plan to popularize a care system for infants and small children.
The government has earmarked NT$191.4 billion for the "Big Warmth" social welfare package for the next three years starting next year, with NT$80 billion for the new plans in the package, averaging more than NT$20 billion for each year.
According to the report, the project to help disadvantaged families has been listed as the leading project in the package and will provide the following 10 services: emergent aids, emergency short-term shelter, emergent medical subsidies, diagnoses and treatments for the mentally ill, employment assistance, schooling aids, legal assistance, protection of personal and financial safety, care services, and starting businesses and financial management.
Legislator Tseng Tsahn-deng said the fact that 120,000 households in Taiwan have a yearly income of lower than NT$58,000 exemplifies the terrible gap between the poor and the rich in the country, which has brought about many social problems, including high suicide rates. According to the Department of Health, more than 4,200 people in Taiwan committed suicide last year, a number much higher than the death toll from the 9-21 earthquake eight years ago.
Tseng said, "If a whole infrastructure and system to help the needy is not established by the government, the 'Big Warmth' project will fall through. The government's giving out money can't really solve the fundamental problems, such as unemployment and the inferior competitive capability of the middle-to-low income households."
He urged the government to really get to the bottom of the problems and asked Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) to coordinate a cross-Cabinet task force to establish a sound system to help the disadvantaged, their children and the elderly.
Another legislator Yang Li-huian said that every premier has promised to take of the disadvantaged and has come up with a big project, but not much has been done to really benefit the needy people. She also questioned whether the "Big Warmth" would put extra financial burden on local governments, many of whom already suffer financial hardship. The local governments usually shoulder 30 percent of the cost of social welfare, but now they would have to shoulder 40 percent, she added.
Legislator Yeh Fang-hsung pointed out that the government's total budget for 2007's social welfare projects is NT$309.9 billion, which is NT$5.7 billion more than that this year; however, the percentage of the 2007 social welfare budget in the whole central government's budget is about 0.2 percent less compared to this year's.
Yeh questioned the government's determination to improve social welfare, but called for the government to stick with good plans to take care of the people.