Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday urged legislators to swiftly approve an additional NT$210 billion (US$7.17 billion) to maintain government subsidy programs keeping companies afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is the second increase of special funding for the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Recovery (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), with the first, valued at NT$150 billion, approved on May 9.
Answering legislators’ questions at the Legislative Yuan, Su said that NT$38.3 billion would go toward pandemic prevention, specifically the purchase and research and development (R&D) of vaccines targeting the SARS-CoV-2 strain.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
It would also cover compensation for pandemic prevention efforts, purchasing drugs and other goods used for prevention, stepping up border patrols, maintaining quarantine facilities and compensating local governments, he said.
The remaining NT$171 billion would be used to maintain the Triple Stimulus Voucher program, promote loans and financing measures for small and medium-sized businesses, fund commercial-use electricity subsidies, extend subsidies for employees at companies or in industries heavily affected by the pandemic, fund subsidies to keep businesses afloat and continue R&D programs, Su said.
More than 13.3 million Taiwanese have benefited from the act’s original NT$60 billion in funding and the first special budget increase, Su said, adding that 110,000 companies have been kept afloat and 900,000 employees retained.
To date, 22.65 million people have picked up vouchers, demonstrating the program’s success, he added.
The government has allocated NT$161.1 billion from the NT$210 billion in funding already approved by the legislature, but has only spent NT$151.9 billion, or 94 percent, of the budgeted funding, Su said, adding that the government has only spent the funding where needed.
Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) said that the Ministry of Economic Affairs would take the lion’s share, NT$137.54 billion, of the newly requested funds, followed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, with NT$37.36 billion.
The Council of Agriculture is requesting NT$19.11 billion, while the Ministry of Labor is asking for NT$4.79 billion, Chu said.
The National Communications Commission is asking for NT$271.4 million, while the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Education are requesting NT$638.55 million and NT$640 million respectively, he said.
Separating funding by category, NT$166.4 billion would be used for economic development and NT$43.58 billion for social welfare, Chu said, adding that the additional funding would be provided by raising debt.
In related news, Taiwan can obtain vaccines through self-development, international purchases or international collaboration, Su said, adding that regardless of the method, Taiwan would prioritize domestic needs.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the government on Friday last week signed a contract with the Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) platform, and would pay a deposit for vaccines next month. He did not specify the amount of the deposit.
COVAX is a global initiative led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country.
Additional reporting by Chen Yun and CNA
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