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June 28, 2017

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Lawmakers seek to prevent fake farmers from receiving stipends

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lawmakers are looking to revise a law to prevent fake farmers from receiving government stipends.

The present law allows anyone who has joined the farmer insurance program for six months or more to receive a monthly government stipend for elderly farmers.

  This means people who have temporary jobs in the farming sector who leave after six months could still be entitled to the stipend, which amounts to NT$7,000 per month.

The Legislature's welfare, health, interior and economics committees will review a draft forwarded by the Cabinet for revisions to the elderly farmer stipend law on Wednesday.

The draft seeks to extend the six-month participation in the farmer insurance program to 15 years as a prerequisite for the stipends.

Legislator Lin Chang-min from the ruling Kuomintang said it is unfair and unjust that fake farmers can receive NT$7,000 in government allowances every month.

Both the administration and parliament agree on the need to have the law revised, but they still need to iron out the differences over details, Lin said.

KMT Legislator Chang Chia-chun said she originally was against changing the law, but the administration managed to convince her through communication and explanation.

"After all, this could ease the financial pressure on the government," Chang was cited by the Central News Agency as saying.

She said the planned changes look feasible, but stressed that the revisions must not affect the rights of those who already have been receiving or are about to receive the stipends.

But Legislator Su Chen-ching from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party said an extension to 15 years of participation in the farmer insurance program seems "too harsh," which would come as a heavy blow to farmers. Su said she would agree an extension to two to three years.

The Wednesday review is unlikely to reach a conclusion. And the law stands little chance of being revised by the end of the current legislative session, which has only a few days left before the winter break.

KMT legislative leader Lin Hung-chi said the revisions could be adopted in the next legislative session. He stressed that the fake farmer issues must be addressed for the sake of the country's long-term interests.

DPP whip Gao Jyh-peng said the draft is unlikely to complete its committee-level review this legislative session. He added that the DPP legislative caucus will hold further internal discussions on this issue at a later date.

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