Taiwan's government will budget NT$715.1 billion (HK$164 billion) for a revised economic stimulus plan that could create up to 280,000 jobs in the next four years. More than NT$320 billion would be used in seven projects to create about 150,000 jobs this year in the face of massive layoffs and company closures, a cabinet spokesman said yesterday. But the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the plan was a short-term project aimed at pleasing the public and would waste government resources. In an emergency meeting on Sunday headed by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan, the cabinet decided to increase its original NT$500 billion economic stimulus plan by NT$215.1 billion and to spend NT$320 billion to address the ever-worsening unemployment situation. Spokesman Su Jun-pin said that with seven initiatives planned this year - including more small public-works projects and subsidised programmes - the government hoped to create 150,000 jobs. 'We hope the measure can cut the jobless rate by at least 1.5 percentage points and keep the unemployment rate below 4.5 per cent this year.' Taiwan's jobless rate surged to a five-year high, seasonally adjusted, of 5.01 per cent in December, with nearly 550,000 people newly unemployed that month. Government figures showed 1.16 million people were unemployed. Besides regular reports of suicides by jobless Taiwanese, reports indicated a rise of at least 20 per cent in the number of patients leaving hospitals without paying their bills. Local economists have predicted unemployment could rise to 6 per cent this year. The DPP criticised what it called a job-creation programme aimed at deceiving the public. 'Such a job-creation plan is meaningless as it is more or less like an aid or subsidy plan for the unemployed and can only address the problem short-term, ' party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said.