Conflict erupts at Legislature during review of infrastructure bill

Taipei--Conflict erupted at the Legislative Yuan Wednesday during a preliminary review to a draft bill aimed at allowing the government to borrow more funds than it is allowed for an infrastructure development plan that it calls "forward-looking."

The review took place in a joint meeting of six legislative committees, presided by Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (???) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

At the beginning of the meeting, lawmakers of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) demanded that the draft "Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Statute" should be sent back to the Executive Yuan to be re-written.

KMT lawmakers have criticized the infrastructure development plan, for which the Executive Yuan proposed a special budget of NT$882.49 billion (US$29.32 billion), as being full of flaws, including a lack of policy assessments, unfair budget allocations, overstated economic benefits, and leaving huge debts to future generations.

At around 11:30 a.m. when KMT Legislator Cheng Tien-tsai (???) was making a statement, DPP lawmakers approached him, holding up protest placards.

Seeing that, KMT lawmakers came up to challenge, causing Chiu to call off the speeches and order the review to enter the procedure of screening and reading the bill article by article.

This, however, prompted KMT lawmakers to try to grab the microphone on the rostrum, which was defended by DPP lawmakers.

While the lawmakers of the two sides pushed and shoved each other, KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (???), along with several colleagues, lifted up a desk and headed for the rostrum with it.

In no time, the meeting hall descended into chaos, with exchanges of abusive language and KMT lawmakers' splashing cups of water and coffee toward the rostrum.

The KMT lawmakers failed in their attempt to stop the review and with their majority advantage, the DPP lawmakers eventually got the first reading completed.

After that all the political parties involved held press conferences to condemn what they called "savagery," "bullying" and "violence."

The opposition New Power Party blasted the review procedure as "abnormal," as it did not allow "substantive" discussions on the draft bill, while the People First Party (PFP) criticized the ruling party for using its majority to force the bill's passage.

The DPP controls 68 of the 113 seats in the Legislature, while the KMT has 35, the New Power Party has five, the PFP has three, the Non-Partisan Solidarity Alliance has one, with one belonging to an independent.

DPP lawmaker Yeh Yi-jin (???), a caucus whip, said that given the chaotic situation at the meeting, the party had no choice but to push the first reading through, but added the party caucus is willing to review whether there were flaws during the screening procedure and also to negotiate with its KMT counterpart.

KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (???) said the review was invalid because as far the KMT is concerned, it was not completed.

Meanwhile, New Power Party lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang (???) criticized on his Facebook page that the infrastructure development plan is not "forward-looking" at all, describing its content as "rough."

He contended the plan should undergo major revisions and must not be "forcibly" sent to the plenary session of the Legislature for a vote.

The draft statute was proposed to allow the government to raise debts for the "Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan" without the restrictions imposed by the Public Debt Act.

Under that act, the forecast amounts of outstanding public debt with a maturity of one year or longer incurred by central and local governments must not exceed 50 percent of the average of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the previous three fiscal years.

The Executive Yuan has said that all the required funds for the NT$882 billion infrastructure plan, which is planned to be implemented within a period of eight years, will be acquired through raising debts.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel