Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Reconstruction act needs repairs

Tsai Jung-hsiang 蔡榮祥

The quality of a system’s design is decided by the goals it is designed to achieve. Systems designed for disaster response have two goals. Apart from fixing the damage created by a disaster, they also need to guard against future disasters. Systems designed at the last minute are not only incapable of meeting these two goals; they can also be the source of further disasters. If systems and laws are the result of past evolution and improvement, then we should be able to look at older systems and laws and learn from them to improve our current systems and laws.

Typhoon Morakot not only brutally destroyed life, freedom and property, it also showed the slowness and failure of the government’s disaster response. It is easy for us to compare similar systems designed by past administrations and the goals they were designed to meet with the new reconstruction act.

The Post-Typhoon Morakot Reconstruction Special Act (莫拉克颱風災後重建特別條例) passed by the legislature on Aug. 27 raises the following questions: Will it really be able to meet its legislative objectives? What are the differences between the Temporary Statute for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction (九 二 一震災重建暫行條例) and the new Act? Lastly, what is the reasoning behind the design of the system propagated by the Act?

First, the level of the authorities in charge differs. The Temporary Statute for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction stipulated that the 921 Earthquake Post-disaster Recovery Commission set up by the Cabinet was responsible for leading reconstruction efforts. The Ministry of the Interior, however, is in charge of post-Morakot reconstruction. This situation will cause conflict when the ministry wants to issue directions across departments, for how can one ministry direct other departments at the same level?

Second, Article Two of the Act states that the competent and enforcement authorities must commission other authorities, institutions, juridical persons and groups to take part in reconstruction work. Viewed in a positive light, this could mean that the government hopes to encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors in reconstruction.

However, from the point of view of deliberative democracy, such action is a top-down approach to policymaking, when we really should have disinterested community members such as academics and technical experts, as well as representatives of the typhoon victims, taking part in reconstruction work. The Temporary Statute for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction even declared that at least five representatives of earthquake victims had to participate in the 921 Earthquake Post-disaster Recovery Commission. However, such stipulations have been left out of the Post-Typhoon Morakot Reconstruction Special Act.

Third, Article Three of the Act clearly states that a maximum of NT$100 billion (US$3 billion) will be allotted to the reconstruction. However, what will happen if more than this is needed? Article 69 of the Temporary Statute for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction stated that the affected areas of the 921 Earthquake required NT$100 billion, but also stated that additional funding of no less than NT$100 billion could be necessary for later stages of reconstruction. That is to say that the articles concerning Morakot reconstruction only take half of the matter into consideration and that there are no regulations at all to deal with possible lacks of funding shortages that could occur later on down the line.

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