By Wu Chia-jong and Matthew Mazzetta
TAIPEI, Taiwan, (CNA) — The Cabinet on Thursday put forth a plan to allocate NT$150 billion (US$5 billion) in aid to workers in Taiwan affected by the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the country’s labor market.
According to the minister without portfolio Kung Ming-hsin the proposed special budget of NT$150 billion will be used to prevent mass unemployment in industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the plan, the government will pay subsidies to 1.92 million employees in industries reeling under the economic impact of the coronavirus, Kung said, adding that the number represents 16.67 percent of Taiwan’s workforce.
Over three months the 1.92 million workers will receive 40 percent of their regular salary, he said at a press conference after the Cabinet met to draft the aid package.
Of the total NT$150 billion in the special budget, NT$48 billion will be allocated for aid to some 140,000 transportation workers and 660,000 employees in the service and manufacturing industries. Another NT$33.6 billion will go to 120,000 taxi and tour bus drivers, including one million people who are self-employed, Kung said.
Before the funds could be approved, however, a Cabinet bill to amend the budget limits in a special act governing Taiwan’s COVID-19 response must first be passed in the legislature. After that, the NT$150 billion aid package must also be submitted to the legislature, where it is expected to be passed.
In early March, the legislature approved an initial NT$60 billion special budget to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic, while president Tsai Ing-wen reallocated another NT$40 billion in response to the crisis.
However, with COVID-19 showing no signs of abating, the government has decided to budget an additional NT$150 billion in special funds and to reallocate NT$100 billion from its regular budget to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic, premier Su Tseng-chang said, citing areas such as vulnerable industries, the labor market, supply chains, and cash flows.
Meanwhile, the country’s central bank, the state-run Chungwha Post banking services, and state-owned banks have authorized up to NT$700 billion in financing, which will boost the government’s total COVID-19 economic response package to NT$1.05 trillion, Su said.
The NT$1.05 trillion would account for around 5.4 percent of Taiwan’s 2020 gross domestic product, while the NT$350 billion in direct stimulus — excluding the NT$700 billion in authorized funding — would amount to 1.8 percent of GDP, according to Chu Tzer-ming, head of the directorate general of budget, accounting and statistics.
The NT$700 billion in authorized funding will comprise NT$200 billion from the central bank, NT$450 billion in credit to affected enterprises, and NT$50 billion in low-interest loans to workers, Kung said.