Sun, May 07, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Improving environs improves one's life

By Chen Po-Chi

It may be fairly said that the living environment in Taiwan is quite behind in comparison with other advanced countries. The phenomenon may be partly attributed to our lack of funding in the past to develop public facilities and a beautiful environment, along with the inability of such developments to catch up with the rapid rate of economic growth.

Even more important may be our emphasis on personal interests over public affairs. Taiwan's development has made production closely associated with personal interests to rapidly grow and become very internationally competitive. Since our overall living environment does not benefit any one person individually, it is not only not being improved, but also often subjected to destruction. We do a pretty good job in managing our own personal property or solving problems ourselves. However, we often do poorly in dealing with issues that require joint resolution or effort. This explains why we often see one beautiful looking store in a ramshackle building located on a poorly maintained street.

This development tactic may have at least helped us obtain a rapid growth in production and income, as well as immediately put us ahead of other developing countries during the earlier phase of our economic development. However, it has not only caused the pollution and destruction of the environment, but also the inappropriate development of urban areas and construction which actually restricts future development. Even from a purely production-oriented standpoint, this type of development has become harmful.

Developed countries must necessarily focus on high-technology industries where a large amount of skilled manpower is needed. On the other hand, high-income and well-educated technological talents of course hope to obtain a better quality of life. In view of the high international mobility of technological talents, it would be difficult for a country with a poor living environment to attract and keep talent. If the quality of our living environment is not only worse off than other advanced countries, but also worse off than the wealthy residential communities in developing countries, we may lose our capability to rapidly develop high-technology industries as a result of the outflow of talent. Therefore, improving the quality of our living environment accomplishes a lot more than direct improvement of the quality of people's lives. Instead, it promotes industrial development and growth.

Improving our living environment also works to maintain a balanced distribution of income, which, in turn, leads to further social stability. This then works to further improve our living environment. Public facilities and our overall living environment are things all of us can enjoy for free or at a low cost. Therefore, they could work to significantly improve the quality of life for the middle and lower income families.

For example, if a park is very beautiful, everyone would get to enjoy it. Without a park, only the wealthy could have a similar enjoyment in private gardens, amusement parks that charge for admissions and perhaps other countries. Many projects to improve the environment, such as cleaning and straightening parks and the sidewalks, require non-skilled workers. Therefore, improving our living environment also improves non-skilled workers' employment opportunities, and reduces the unemployment and income-reduction problems of these workers resulting from their replacement by low-wage workers in developing countries.

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