Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taipei County wins the Lottery but can't collect the Prize

Taipei County wins the Lottery but can't collect the Prize
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 14, 2007

Taipei County's elevation to the status of Directly Administered Municipality means it has gained admission to an exclusive club consisting of the two wealthy metropolises, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City. At least that's what some people imagined. Who knew the central government had no follow up plans whatsoever? Instead it turned to Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, demanding that they cough up funds already allocated to them and share them with Taipei County. Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu expressed her displeasure by threatening to boycott Frank Hsieh's election campaign.

Chen Chu's anger is understandable. Counties and municipalities hope to have their legal status elevated because they wish to improve their economic prospects. They want comprehensive plans and concrete support, not reckless haste. They don't need pandering to voters without regard for the consequences. If the promotion of Taipei County requires the demotion of Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, what is that except "redistributing the poverty?"

Taipei County's promotion means it qualifies for 30 billion in central government funding. But most of that funding has already been canceled. Meanwhile, it has now become liable for central government expenditures such as health insurance and low income welfare subsidies. The result is it won't be enjoying any benefits whatsoever. This is like winning the lottery, uncorking the champagne, only to find out one won't be receiving any prize money, but must pay taxes on one's "winnings." Taipei City and Kaohsiung City are even worse off. Others win the lottery, but instead of getting to share the wealth, they get to share the poverty. They must endure a loss of tens of billions from their original budgets. What logic is there in this kind of policy making?

Taipei City, Taipei County, and Kaohsiung City are all opposed to the Executive Yuan's "equal division of spoils." The Executive Yuan's shell game has exposed the Chen regime's attitude for what it is -- superficially respectful but actually contemptuous. For years the Democratic Progressive Party harped on the necessity of promoting Taipei County to a Directly Administered Municipality. Every time an election rolled around, major or minor, this battle cry was heard. During his term as Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang repeatedly accused the Kuomintang of "obstructing" Taipei County's elevation in status. Chen Shui-bian repeatedly stressed that what Taipei County wanted was not to be merged into Taipei City, but to be independently promoted. Only three months ago, when the Legislative Yuan passed its Land Administration Act confirming Taipei County's promotion, the Chen regime attempted to claim credit. But now that it is unable to come up with funding, the central government is using the fact that Taipei County's elevation in status was "not an Executive Yuan inititative" as an excuse to do nothing. What is one to conclude from all this, except that the Democratic Progressive Party's sanctimonious demands were nothing but empty posturing?

Never last when taking credit. Always first when disowning responsibility. The public has long since seen through the Democratic Progressive Party's disingenuous sophistry. Democratic Progressive Party elders have long accused the Kuomintang of "favoring the north at the expense of the south." But once it was in power, they cited this as an excuse to persecute "mainlander" dominated Taipei City, to cut its funding, to humiliate these inhabitants of the nation's capital. But leave this aside for the moment. Chen Shui-bian has been in power for seven years. In all those years, what has he done to redress the imbalance between north and south? How does taking 10 billion from Kaohsiung's budget redress the imbalance between north and south?

The Chen regime's populist demagoguery may provoke a short term north vs. south confrontation. But it cannot promote southern Taiwan's long term prosperity. The ruling regime's talk of a "satellite capital" and of "sharing the national treasures" have encouraged people to migrate to the nation's capital. Taipei County now has over 3.6 million people. The central government has no choice but to promote it. But as we now see, it was all for show. Now Taoyuan County, with a population approaching 2 million, also wants in. When the time comes, can funds divided four ways really provide for Taipei City, Taipei County, Kaohsiung City, and Taoyuan County?

One could argue that the Democratic Progressive Party "expedited" Taipei County's elevation in status. The facts suggest otherwise, and expose the ruling DPP's hypocritical posturing for what it is. They show how opportunistic the DPP party hierarchy is when their members jockey with each other for short term political advantage. DPP policy makers no longer have any patience for long-term planning. Instead they behave as if they were street entertainers out for a quick buck plying their trade to passersby. This kind of "political achievement" is ubiquitous. Recently completed cultural centers have become disused "Halls for Mosquitos." Newly completed airports offer only one flight a day. Ordinary people have become marks at the mercy of con artists. What they envisioned was a wad of cash. What they got was disposable drink containers packaged to resemble a wad of cash.

Take the long debated subject of casinos for example. In a surprise move, Pingtung and Chiayi announced their intention to legalize gambling. Penghu reacted violently. If the ruling regime intended to grant gambling licenses to Pingtung and Chiayi on the main island, how did it expect casinos on the outer islands of Penghu to survive? The elevation of Taipei County's legal status and the establishment of casinos on Penghu are the same. They are both cases of having the name but not the game.

When Taipei County was elevated to the status of Directly Administered Municipality, county residents thought they had just caught the brass ring. The brass ring would turn out to be brass plate over base metal. This is the sort of metal the Democratic Progressive Party is made of. Why should Taipei and Kaohsiung be required to make good on the ruling DPP's rubber check? Chen Chu has asked the central government an embarrassing question. Now everybody is waiting to hear Chen Shui-bian, Su Tseng-chang, and Frank Hsieh's answers.

2007.08.14 03:41 am










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