United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 15, 2016
Executive Summary: The Taipei Dome contract may be dissolved or not. But the problem must be solved. Any further delays, and the unfinished steel dome will truly become public security nightmare. Typhoon season is approaching. A necessary prerequisite to solving the problem of the Taipei Dome, is for Ko Wen-je to set aside his arrogance and his prejudices. He must be willing to call a spade a spade. He must be willing to confront the legal and physical realities. He must be willing to admit his mistakes and apologize. He must not leave the debt to future generations. His "Shark Theory" can no longer save him from his dilemma. If he refuses to confront a 37 billion dollar problem today, he will confront a 40 billion dollar problem tomorrow.
Full Text Below:
After a night of consultation, the Taipei City Government and the Farglory Group have agreed to dissolve their Taipei Dome contract. The situation seems clear. Both parties want out. Ko Wen-je is eager to unburden himself of this administrative nightmare. He hopes to halt his precipitous decline in the polls. Farglory's corporate reputation and image have been severely damaged by Ko Wen-je. It has little reason for nostalgia. And as the old saying goes, “You can't fight city hall”. The smart thing to do is simply leave.
But dissolution of the contract is easier said than done. Many agencies are involved. The pros and cons must be weighed. Farglory wants the city to buy back the project for 37 billion dollars. Only then will it agree to dissolution. This means if the city cannot scrape up the money, or if Ko Wen-je cannot find another company willing to take on the project, he can forget it. Ko Wen-je did everything in his power to make things difficult for Farglory. He forced Farglory to shutdown, leaving it utterly demoralized. Now it is Ko Wen-je's turn to ride the tiger. Now he is the one trapped between a high buyout price, and a huge penalty for dissolution. He can neither advance nor retreat.
Ko Wen-je says he can haggle over the price. It is not Farglory's call. That is true. The parties must of course agree. But even a 10% discount still adds up to over 30 billion. Can the city come up with that sort of cash? Or is Ko planning to leave the entire mess behind for the next mayor and the taxpayers to clean up? According to Farglory, the Taipei Dome itself cost 30 billion. Downtime losses, according to third-party estimates, add i[ to 7 billion. That is why Farglory is asking 37 billion. When Ko Wen-je ordered work stopped on the Taipei Dome in May last year, he got to thump his chest and strut about during the following year. But the city was forced to pay over 7 billion dollars for his privilege. Taipei Dome rusting has also increased public safety concerns.
When Ko Wen-je spoke about the Taipei Dome yesterday, he continued passing the buck. He said the “giant rotten egg” lying there is hardly my fault. The public safety issue is hardly my doing. Why blame me? His buck-passing was obvious sophistry. If Ko uncovered a safety issue with the Taipei Dome, why didn't he have Farglory fix it? Instead he insisted on handing down an edict stopping all work. Over the past year, Ko Wen-je has basked in his fans' praise for his "courage". He probably never realized that pounding the table and throwing a fit would cost 7 billion dollars. Countless subcontractors will receive no payment. They will find themselves in debt or even be forced to declare bankruptcy. Does he care?
Can the city scrape up the 37 billion buyout price? If not, then the dissolution of the contract with Farglory cannot proceed. If the contract cannot be dissolved, and the city refuses to allow Farglory to resume construction, the two sides will inevitably find themselves mired in a legal battle with unimaginable consequences. What is the worst possible outcome? The city will be forced to pay a huge sum in compensation. The Taipei Dome will become a rusting steel skeleton. Huge sums will have to be spent dismantling it. Demolition of the dome would create public safety concerns for the nearby MRT system. The public is frustrated, and Ko Wen-je's credibility has hit rock bottom.
When Chen Shui-bian was Taipei mayor, he want after Matra, builder of the Mucha MRT line, in a fit of anger. He filed lawsuit after lawsuit. His approach differed little from Ko Wen-je's Jihad aainst Farglory. In the end, the city was ordered to pay Matra 1.6 billion, all paid by the hapless taxpayer. Do citizens of Taipei intend to continue allowing Ko Wen-je do whatever he damn well pleases?
Ironically, the moment Ko Wen-je took office, he launched a self-righteous crusade against "Five Major Scandals". He went through the motions on the four other scandals, but bet his reputation for “courage” on the Taipei Dome. Alas, he has reached an impasse. Today, a fairy tale ending to the saga of the Taipei Dome is unlikely. One can only hope that the very consortium “Professor Ko” maligned will help him clean up the mess he created. But how many companies are willing to trust Ko Wen-je and work with the city? Ko hopes to remodel the old Taipei City Council building. He has lowered the base price three times, but still no takers. Taipei City is supposed to host the 2017 World Games. Corporate fund raising was supposed to raise 20 million. But so far no one has contributed a single cent. The business community has been frightened away by Ko Wen-je's indiscriminate attempts to discredit and humiliate Farglory. It is reluctant to deal with Ko. Are any companies willing to assume such a risk by taking on the Taipei Dome? Are they unconcerned about even closer scrutiny by the Ko Wen-je regime? Nor is this merely a question of money. The Ko government insists the dome is unsafe, that it is too large. Can all of this be conveniently forgotten merely because the city signs a contract with another in private?
The Taipei Dome contract may be dissolved or not. But the problem must be solved. Any further delays, and the unfinished steel dome will truly become public security nightmare. Typhoon season is approaching. A necessary prerequisite to solving the problem of the Taipei Dome, is for Ko Wen-je to set aside his arrogance and his prejudices. He must be willing to call a spade a spade. He must be willing to confront the legal and physical realities. He must be willing to admit his mistakes and apologize. He must not leave the debt to future generations. His "Shark Theory" can no longer save him from his dilemma. If he refuses to confront a 37 billion dollar problem today, he will confront a 40 billion dollar problem tomorrow.
情況看來很明顯，雙方都想離開泥淖： 柯文哲急欲擺脫這個尾大不掉的施政噩夢， 以挽救他跌跌不休的民調；遠雄方面， 則因企業信譽和形象已被柯文哲打趴，此地已沒什麼好留戀， 何況民不與官鬥，走為上策。
需看全套方案才知得失。遠雄開出的條件是： 市府拿出三百七十億元照價買回，該公司就同意解約。言下之意， 若市府拿不出錢， 或柯文哲找不到其他企業願意出錢幫市府頂下巨蛋，那就休想。 換言之，當初柯市府千方百計刁難，強逼遠雄停工， 弄得遠雄灰頭土臉；現在，則輪到柯文哲騎虎難下， 夾在解約和鉅額價購賠償之間，進退不得。
這點沒錯，雙方當然應該再議價；然而，三百七十億就算打九折， 還是三百多億，市府掏得出這麼大一筆錢嗎， 或者打算把爛攤子交給下任市長及全體市民？根據遠雄的說法， 大巨蛋造價本身為三百億，至於停工損失， 根據第三方的鑑價是七十億元，所以加總為三七○億。簡言之， 大巨蛋去年五月停工至今，柯文哲威風了一年， 卻讓市府要多賠七十億元；而巨蛋鋼架鏽蝕，也增加了公安疑慮。
大臭蛋躺在那裡又不是我的錯，公安疑慮也不是我造成的， 為什麼要怪我。這話是詭辯。當初若認定大巨蛋安全有問題， 為何不逼遠雄改善再改善，卻非要勒令停工。一年來， 柯文哲在享受柯迷為其「魄力」叫好而自得之際，大概萬萬沒想到， 他這拍桌一怒的代價竟高達七十億吧？ 若算上其中許多小包商因拿不到工程款而負債或倒閉， 他又於心何忍？
就可能無法成立。若無法真正解約，市府又仍不准遠雄復工， 雙方勢必陷入一場戰火漫天的法律訴訟，後果難以想像。 最壞的結局是，市府要付出鉅額賠償， 而大巨蛋依然是鋼架廢墟一座，還得動用鉅款去拆， 而拆蛋還可能造成捷運的公安疑慮。市民在幾頭皆落空的情況下， 柯文哲的信用也就差不多掃地了。
曾意氣風發地追打木柵捷運線的法商馬特拉，並與之興訟；其手法， 跟今天柯文哲痛擊遠雄的情景，差相彷彿。 馬特拉案最後市府被判賠十六億元，由全民埋單；今天， 台北市民仍然會讓柯文哲為所欲為嗎？
只剩下靠著大巨蛋在撐著柯Ｐ的「魄力」， 卻也到了難以為繼的地步。今天， 大巨蛋如果要有一個夢幻式的美好收場， 恐怕也只能寄望柯Ｐ動輒抹黑的「財團」來幫他收拾，接下爛攤。 問題是，現在還有多少企業願意相信柯文哲，與市府合作？ 最近舊台北市議會的改建案，不斷降低招標底價，仍三度流標。 台北市主辦二○一七世大運，原訂向企業界募款廿億元， 至今金額仍然掛零。由此可見， 企業界對於柯文哲不分青紅皂白抹黑、羞辱財團的作法，早已心寒， 皆不願與柯市府打交道。那麼， 若有什麼企業敢冒大不韙出來接手大巨蛋， 其與柯文哲的關係難道不怕受到加倍檢驗？何況， 這不只是錢的問題，柯市府指責大巨蛋的安全性、 建築量體過巨等事，難道都可以因私下協議轉手他人而一筆勾銷？
未完工的鋼形巨蛋真的會變成台北市的公安夢魘， 而且颱風季節馬上就要來臨。我們認為， 解決大巨蛋問題的必要前提，是柯文哲得放下自己的傲慢和偏見， 學習就事論事，面對法律和現實，並且道歉認錯， 千萬不能債留子孫。事到如今，他的「沙魚理論」 已經解不了他的危困，今天不面對三七○億的難關， 明天就得面對四百億的高牆。