Fri, Dec 20, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Merge local authorities, but develop a plan first

By Chen Yue-Hsin 陳雨鑫

The possibility of merging Taichung City and Taichung County and turning the new entity into a special municipality has prompted an unexpected protest from Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). If Taipei County is not elevated to special municipality status ahead of other cities and counties, Su has threatened to step down, unable, he says, to face his constituents.

With my three-years' experience as deputy commissioner of Taichung County, I would like to offer some opinions.

To merge a county with an adjacent city requires a redistribution of resources and a plan for balanced development between the two areas. A region's environment and resources, in particular, must be given priority consideration. Let's consider the case of Taichung County. The proposed merger of the county with the city is in the planning stage.

The county covers an area of 2,053km2, but 50 percent of the land is mountainous and houses a mere 1 percent of the entire population of the county. Is this the kind of environment suitable for a special municipality?

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promised in his election campaign to give the greater Taichung area what he called the "three thirds," namely the country's third industrial park, third international airport and third special municipality. Plans for the first two projects are already underway.

Elected officials should of course honor their election promises. They should also, however, value the conclusions of their professional aides, consider all-round resource distribution and conduct priority analyses.

Policies should be implemented in accordance with an order of priorities. The making of policy must involve consideration of all relevant factors so that maximum benefit is achieved and development balanced across all regions.

Systems of government throughout the world are increasingly moving toward flat organizational structures. Since Taiwan's provincial government was downsized, the country's development toward a two-tier system, consisting of central and local governments, has also been driven by this trend.

The most urgent matter now is to survey the land before merging regions into special municipalities. The government must not hurry to pinpoint areas as new special municipalities. Otherwise all local governments will rush to seek that status.

Land planning might involve the following considerations: the central mountain range, for example, might be named a special Aboriginal administrative region under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples. Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu might be categorized as a special administrative offshore island region.

Taiwan proper should be divided into four zones -- the north, center, south and east. The overall structure should include no more than 10 districts, namely three special municipalities and, at most, seven county and city governments.

After costs have been reduced by this exercise in streamlining, the requisite supplementary measures should be drawn up. The government should then name the special municipalities.

Furthermore, after a flat organizational structure has been established, public representatives of counties, townships and cities will be directly designated by local administrations to cut electoral costs and eliminate power struggles between local factions, which often result in "black gold" and violence.

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