Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 8 News List

What Taipei needs is a 'repo' man

By Ho Jung-hsing

This is a time when outsourcing original equipment manufacturing (OEM) and and original design manufacturing (ODM) is becoming popular, with various companies designing and producing parts and even entire products for major global brands. This is also a time when creditors can hire private repossession or "repo" companies to help seek repayment. Then why shouldn't the government have its own repo company to help retrieve the backlog of administrative fines meted out to members of the public?

To be frank, all previous mayors of Taipei City deserve a spanking when it comes to getting citizens to pay their fines. The city's revenues would not have fallen to the current level has the previous mayors not turned a blind eye to the issue and allowed citizens to act in contempt of the government. Also, it would not have been so difficult for Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to implement the major clean-up he is now trying to undertake.

Exactly how serious is the "debt evasion" issue among Taipei citizens? According to a rough estimate by Ma's administration, the city government is a creditor to 40 percent of Taipei's citizens. In the fines for traffic violations alone, each of the top 100 debtors owe the city an average NT$400,000.

There are many reasons why citizens owe the city government money. The top reasons include tax evasion and the illegal dumping of garbage and rubble. While some people deliberately delay payment to "try their luck," many habitual violators simply do not know how many tickets they have accumulated. Inadequate regulations and lackluster enforcement have encouraged a hide-and-seek game between citizens and the government. After a while, some citizens learn how to hide in grey areas and laugh at the government.

Ma plans to set up regulations for the implementation and management of the penalties, which will include confiscation of motor vehicles and barring individuals from leaving the country, to force violators to pay their fines, and to guarantee the rights of law-abiding citizens. If it can avoid violating human rights, the will and establishment of an "official repo company" would certainly be conducive to rebuilding a good public image for government authority.

Ho Jung-hsing is chief of the city desk at the Liberty Times.

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