'Banana republic': Culture chief slams cuts
The China Post news staffCulture Minister Lung Ying-tai yesterday criticized lawmakers for cutting a big chunk from her ministry's spending for 2013, describing the legislative budget screening as a “banana republic” operation.
January 17, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Lung said it “hurt” her to see lawmakers taking only 10 minutes to cut from a budget plan that the Ministry of Culture (MOC) had meticulously worked on for eight months.
“On the surface, it seems to be saving money for the nation, but eight months of work has been wasted,” Lung complained.
The Legislature on Tuesday approved the central government budget for the year, making the biggest cut in six years. For the MOC, which was established last March, lawmakers cut NT$760 million from its proposed sum of NT$16.35 billion.
Of the NT$760 million, about NT$40 million was axed from specific items listed in the MOC proposal, while the rest was the result of broad-stroke reductions affecting all Cabinet offices, such as a 3-percent cut from water and electricity bills.
Lung said the MOC budget plan had received support from the legislative education committee and the Legislature's Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, but the final fate was determined by a round of 10-minute negotiations between ruling and opposition lawmakers during the Tuesday screening.
The screening was “chaotic” and “primitive,” as if it was taking place in a banana republic, the minister lamented.
“The Legislature's budget screening system must be reformed,” said Lung, who had been an outspoken social critic before accepting the Cabinet post.
Speaker Wang responded to her criticism by saying that nothing can be done now that the budget has been finalized.
He said the Legislature had already told the Cabinet long ago about the items that lawmakers had decided to cut.
The MOC should have let lawmakers know its problems prior to the screening, just as what other Cabinet bodies had done, and “special consideration” would have been given it, the speaker said.
He said legislative committees would discuss specific items listed in budget proposals, but it is the plenary session that decides the “broad strokes” — decisions that he said are “naturally made in just a few minutes.”
“I don't know what a banana republic means,” said Wang.
Lung noted that the MOC's subsidies for cultural and artistic groups have been reduced by NT$220 million, and NT$97 million has been axed from subsidies for local governments.
The MOC will have NT$307 million less for historic site maintenance and construction projects, she added.