Banjul, The Gambia, April 12 (CNA)
President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday that Taiwan's recent aid donation of US$3 million to help The Gambia cope with a food crisis is a humanitarian action that should not be misinterpreted as a waste of money.
"This is the kind of money that ought to be spent," Ma told a group of Taiwanese reporters accompanying him on a state visit to the West African country.
Responding to criticism by the opposition that Taiwan's diplomatic efforts remain "costly" despite his "flexible" approach, Ma said there is "a very big difference" between the current and past policies.
He said his administration has three main principles regarding foreign aid, namely that the money should be spent decently, lawfully and efficiently.
Taking up the issue, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang noted that The Gambia is suffering from a serious food shortage due to drought in the Sahel region of West Africa.
As Taiwan maintains a cooperation program on agricultural production with the African ally, the government decided to draw US$3 million from the cooperation fund to help The Gambia tackle the problem, Yang said.
Another Taiwan ally in West Africa, Burkina Faso, is facing a similar problem, and the situation has worsened due to the recent influx of 40,000 refugees from Mali, he noted.
This is why President Ma promised an additional 1 million euros in aid to Burkina Faso during his visit there earlier this week, Yang added.
Yang said although Taiwan alone cannot resolve the problems facing the two African nations, its aid shows concern and friendship toward the long-time allies.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Y.F. Low)