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Safety concerns prompt review of diplomats' housing allowances

2012/05/14 20:17:38

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering an adjustment to diplomats' housing allowances, which have been criticized as too small, in the wake of the recent murder of an overseas embassy staffer, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said in Taipei Monday.

Yang said during a hearing of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee that the allowances have become insufficient because of inflation and the depreciating U.S. dollar, which have made diplomats overseas choose to rent houses in less-safe areas.

According to a ministry report, no overall adjustment has been made to housing subsidies for diplomats since 2005. Yang cited poor government finances for this, while documents provided by lawmakers also show that the budget for such allowances dropped from NT$577 million (US$19.56 million) in 2011 to NT$550 million this year.

Admitting that raising the allowances alone will not prevent incidents such as the murder in April of Julia Ou, a secretary at the Republic of China Embassy in the Dominican Republic, from happening again in the future, Yang said the ministry will nevertheless authorize an evaluation of the living environments of its overseas staff.

Meanwhile, the committee passed a proposal by lawmakers to raise the housing allowances for Taiwanese diplomats working in nine locations with high safety concerns, including Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras in Central America.

(By Emmanuelle Tseng and Kay Liu)