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Elderly farmers subsidy amendment officially launched

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The amendment to temporary provisions governing subsidies for elderly farmers was officially launched to raise the threshold for receiving subsidies, the Presidential Office announced yesterday.

The Executive Yuan passed the amendment to the temporary provisions governing subsidies for elderly farmers last November. Based on the amendment, the threshold is for those who are 65 years old and older and have held farmers' health insurance for over 15 years instead of the current six months in order to apply for the NT$7,000 monthly subsidy.

Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said that in the past, the government viewed the subsidies for elderly farmers as a way to increase its support base.

“Whenever elections approached, some politicians started to raise the amount of subsidies for elderly farmers,” said Chen. “In 1995, the subsidy for elderly farmers was NT$3,000 monthly and now they receive NT$7,000 as a subsidy monthly.”

According to Chen, retired civil servants, doctors and those who are not long-term farmers but over the age of 65 could enjoy the monthly subsidy after purchasing land and joining the farmers' health insurance for six months.

Chen said that the amount of subsidies that the COA hands out makes up about half of the council's annual budget, and this change will allow the government to take care of the long-term farmers.

“When I first proposed the amendment to raise the threshold for receiving subsidies from holding farmers' health insurance for six months to 15 years, many people considered it to be an impossible mission,” said Chen.

Chen said, however, that he does not want to make any changes to the regulations if he cannot fix everything that is required to be adjusted at once, which was why he lashed out against the legislators over the delayed progress on the review of the amendment in May.

Chen said that farmers are not the minority, so all citizens, including white-collar and blue-collars workers, as well as farmers, should have equal social status when it comes to national insurance and the social welfare system.

After Chen lashed out against the legislators over the delayed progress on the review of the amendment in May, legislators fought back, saying that the COA should review the qualifications for those who hold farmers' health insurance before discussing the amendments.

Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) later declared his full support for the amendment to temporary provisions governing subsidies for elderly farmers that will raise the threshold of qualifications needed to receive the subsidy.

According to the latest survey published by the National Development Council (NDC, 國發會), Chen said, 66.9 percent of people support the amendment to temporary provisions governing subsidies for elderly farmers, which is a 14.4-percent increase compared to the first survey on the same topic published by the COA.

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