Today was Voucher Day, when the government of Taiwan began distributing NT3600 ($110 or ￥9800) in consumer vouchers in an attempt to get people spending and thus, hopefully, providing some much-needed stimulus to an economy that has been heading in the wrong direction since early last year. The vouchers have been issued to every R.O.C. 中華民国 citizen regardless of age (so my wife and daughter both received one), and after some initial confusion and policy switches when the program was first announced a couple of months ago, to spouses of R.O.C. citizens, which means I was able to get my hands on the free cash as well. Despite fears of long lines at the distribution centers, we had no delays at all - my brother-in-law picked up Pamela's and Amber's, while my wife got mine for me in just a matter of minutes (the fact that it was in the middle of the afternoon probably had a lot to do with that!).
The voucher packet contains six NT500 and three NT200 vouchers, and come in a "lucky" red envelope with a Lunar New Year's 旧正月 greeting from the government. They can be used just about anywhere to buy virtually anything. Some of my students are planning to use theirs on daily necessities, while others are going to pool them together with their family members' to buy big-ticket items like flat-screen TV's and dining room tables. The catch is that you're not able to put them into bank accounts - they are meant to be spent, and must be used by September. We haven't decided yet how to utilize our NT10,800 gift, and will put off doing so until after we get back from a visit to the States early next month.
Will the consumer vouchers work the way the government hopes? They'd better - including printing and distribution costs, the total runs to NT4200 ($125 or ￥11,400) each for roughly 23 million people. That creates quite a debt load to pass on to the next generation, especially when the government also intends to spend billions on a number of infrastructure (aka "pork barrel construction") projects designed to further cover this island in cement (while still leaving its residents with water that can't be drunk straight from the tap or toilets that can't handle tissue paper). Alex Kerr should have visited Taiwan first before writing "Dogs and Demons" (http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Demons-Tales-Dark-Japan/dp/0809039435/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232292578&sr=1-1).
The BBC has an article about the voucher program on its website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7836458.stm
On the way back from picking up our consumer vouchers, we paid a visit to my mother-in-law, busy working on her cabbages in a neighborhood vegetable patch. She's a wonderful person who will be looking after our cat for us while we're away.