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Package to free up NT$270 bil. for budget: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that the Ministry of Finance's newly devised reform package will make an additional NT$270 billion available for the national budget and also help create more wealth.

Ma, who doubles as chairman of the ruling party, made the comments at the Kuomintang's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting in which Finance Minister Chang Shen-ford (張盛和) was invited to give a report on the reform package.

The president said that the minister spent a considerable amount of time devising the package, given that the government's debt limit has already reached 38.4 percent and little room is left for the government to raise additional capital. Furthermore, there are many regulations that limit the government's management of stocks and realty.

There has to be a comprehensive review, Ma said, adding that proposals should be made at different levels.

In addition to controlling government borrowing, a certain amount of funds need to be set aside for emergencies in the event of a major natural disaster, the president said.

Ma pointed out, however, that the ministry's package has yet to secure the Cabinet's approval.

Judging from the early stages, the ministry's plan to levy a solidarity tax on wealth (富人稅) has received support from various wealthy individuals, the president said.

Meanwhile, the government has to not only think about how to increase revenue but also how to cut down on expenditures, Ma said, adding that each item has to be clearly accounted for in order to set government finance on the right track.

Quoting a Chinese saying, the president said, “(Even) the cleverest housewife cannot cook rice without rice.”

When there aren't sufficient funds, it is difficult to do almost anything, but it is necessary to find a way to increase income and decrease expenses in spite of difficult financial circumstances, Ma said.

Chang's plan will make an additional NT$270 billion available for the government to use, Ma said. “The package will not only help the government allocate the national budget, but it will also create more wealth.”

Regarding the economy, the president said that a readjustment has to be made to industry structure, and that the country needs to take part in regional economic integration.

Reform has to be carried out not only from an economic angle but also from a financial angle, Ma added.

The minister held a press conference on Feb. 24, saying that the administration is planning to levy a “feedback tax” (回饋稅), whereas on the following day, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) gave a clear report on these plans, hoping to get people to gather their thoughts, the president went on to say.

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