ARMS PACKAGE TO BE PARTIALLY FINANCED BY REGULAR MILITARY BUDGET
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 17 (CNA) The controversial U.S. arms procurement package can be partly funded from the government's regular budget instead of from appropriations from a special budget, the Cabinet decided Wednesday.
The Cabinet passed a draft budget plan for next year that included NT$7 billion for the special arms procurement project.
Of that amount, NT$350 million will be contributed by the Cabinet and the remaining will be from the Ministry of National Defense's regular budget.
As a result, the nation's overall defense spending for 2006 will be NT$253.8 billion, a NT$4.1 billion increase from the 2005 level and accounting for 15.9 percent of the government's total annual expenditure.
The special arms procurement project refers to a plan to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft from the United States. The package will call for an outlay of NT$480 billion. The government originally planned to finance it with a special budget plan to span a period of 15 years.
The bill has been held up in the legislature because of opposition parties' feeling that the cost of the weaponry is too expensive and that any payments ought not come from a special budget.
The Cabinet approved the government's 2006 budget plan at its weekly meeting earlier in the day, which projects annual total revenues to be NT$1.4 trillion and annual expenditures of NT$1.6 trillion. "The budgetary gap is less than in 2005, " a budget planning official said, adding that in addition to using its previous budget surplus, the government will have to float NT$239 billion in state bonds, or 14.8 percent of its total spending, to make ends meet.
Compared with the 2005 budget plan, 2006 government expenditures will mark a 0.5 percent decrease.
Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Premier Frank Hsieh said that although the government's budget will not increase next year, the Cabinet has adjusted its spending structure in line with its overall national development plans.
In the 2006 budget plan, Hsieh said, disbursements related to the upgrading of national competitiveness and industrial technological development will grow substantially, and spending on the upgrading of living quality and public safety, including physical education, health care, community services, fighting crime and ethnic diversity, will also increase. "Our 2006 budget plan has given balanced emphasis on economic development, social justice, environmental protection and cultural renaissance," Hsieh said.
According to the Cabinet-drafted budget bill, NT$84.3 billion will be appropriated for technological development projects, marking all-time-high growth of 19.7 percent from the year-earlier level.
NT$11.5 billion will be earmarked for a "six-star" community development project, marking 14.2 percent in annual growth; the spending for fighting crime will surge 6.5 percent; expenditures for welfare services for minority ethnic groups will post a 10.8 percent rise.
Meanwhile, the budget for the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports will register a whopping 82 percent growth to reach NT$4.9 billion and the National Youth Commission's budget will increase to NT$520 million, up 19.2 percent.
By category, spending on education, science, technology and culture will account for the largest share of the government's 2006 expenditures, making up 22 percent of the total; social welfare spending will account for 18.5 percent of the total; and spending on economic development projects will make up 12.8 percent.
(By Sofia Wu)
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