Cabinet unveils infrastructure budget

The Cabinet yesterday proposed a NT$108.9 billion (US$3.56 billion) budget for the first part of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

The budget is to fund eight categories of projects over four years.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$35.4 billion for urban and rural development projects.

This includes NT$12.2 billion to improve road quality, NT$6.15 billion to develop industrial parks, NT$4.38 billion to build long-term care facilities and repair unsafe public buildings, NT$3.6 billion to build sports and recreational facilities and NT$1.45 billion to develop Hakka and Aboriginal communities.

In addition, NT$25.67 billion has been earmarked for water infrastructure: NT$14.37 billion for the construction of an artificial lake, catchment area conservation, reservoir dredging and water supply system upgrade; NT$5.3 billion for regional river management; and NT$6 billion for water resource management and conservation.

Railway projects, which account for nearly half of the total budget, have received NT$17.06 billion at this stage, as many projects have yet to undergo feasibility assessments and planning, but the railway budget would increase significantly when most projects enter construction phase, the Executive Yuan said.

About NT$6.9 billion would be spent on the electrification of railways connecting Taitung and Pingtung counties and NT$2.97 billion on the construction of an underground railway in Tainan, while a budget of NT$569 million is proposed to improve connectivity between regular and high-speed railways.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$8.12 billion to develop “green” energy infrastructure and a science park in Tainan, and NT$16.17 billion to build cloud servers and improve Internet facilities in schools and remote areas.

To recognize the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) suggestions, NT$2 billion, NT$300 million and NT$4.2 billion have been earmarked to address the issues of low birth rate, food safety and talent cultivation respectively.

Projects with smaller budgets can be supplemented with funds from regular annual budgets, Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said.

For example, although the Cabinet has proposed NT$2 billion to address low fertility rates, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has already allocated NT$6.85 billion to improve childcare services and the Ministry of Education has budgeted NT$6 billion to increase the number of public kindergartens by 1,000, Hsu said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has allocated a three-year budget of NT$11.43 billion to cultivate talent from last year to next year, Hsu added.

The Cabinet is to officially present the budget to the legislature today.

KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said the caucus would plan its review strategy after the Cabinet submits its proposal, adding that the party would prioritize the review of railway projects.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) urged the KMT to exercise restraint during the review, as the budget allocations do not favor DPP-ruled cities and counties as the KMT has claimed, but focus on the development of railroads in eastern Taiwan.

“The KMT would need to justify itself if it tries to boycott the budget review. Must the party insist on the previous KMT administration’s policies that ignored the development of eastern Taiwan?” Wu said.

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