Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Reallocating resources across cities

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

On Thursday, Jiasian Township (甲仙) in Kaohsiung County was hit by a strong earthquake. It came as a shock for areas of Kaohsiung that suffered heavy damage from Typhoon Morakot last year and reminded people of the threat that earthquakes pose. Following the deadly earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, this was another in a series of big quakes that have occurred recently. This cluster of earthquakes has provoked a sense of crisis in many countries, and Taiwan should face up to the threat.

Not long ago, geologists warned that Tokyo, Cairo and Los Angeles, which are all situated in earthquake zones, could be hit by earthquakes in the near future. Taiwan is located on the Pacific rim earthquake belt, so it will also experience frequent earthquakes.

People around the world are thinking of how to prevent disasters and how to minimize risk. Governments have done a lot of work on planning for disasters, such as cutting risks by distributing resources and strengthening disaster prevention and rescue systems. By comparison, Taiwan seems to be going against the trend, putting little emphasis on risk distribution and resource allocation.

Although there is no need to panic about potential disasters, the threat is a concern for many. To a large extent, this is because there are many risks and loopholes in our prediction, warning, prevention and rescue systems. It is also because science’s ability to predict disaster is still limited, as are the means to cope with disasters once they occur.

Recently, some experts predicted that global warming may cause serious flooding in the Taipei basin. Some have even suggested that the capital city should be moved elsewhere. Moving the capital is no easy task and needs careful consideration. However, it does raise a matter that requires urgent attention and resolution — the high concentration of resources, and therefore of risk, in one area. Above all, we must actively work out a set of measures to cut risk.

Taiwan’s political, economic, financial, industrial, cultural, media and other resources are all concentrated in the Taipei region. In fact, the region is becoming overdeveloped. Taiwan’s development blueprint is such that the nation and the world are all seen from Taipei’s point of view, not from the viewpoints of southern or eastern Taiwan. Most importantly, this concentration of resources means that if Taipei is hit by a major disaster, the nation’s vitality may suffer greatly. This excessive concentration of resources in the Greater Taipei region has become even more acute in recent years.

An overconcentration of resources in Taipei means that risk is also concentrated in the area. Aside from increasing overall risk, it has led to an imbalance in national development. New York is the economic and financial center of the US, while Washington is the political center.

Similarly, Beijing is China’s political center, while Shanghai is its economic and financial center. Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and other Japanese cities each occupy a leading position in various spheres. Based on the experiences of these and other countries, the idea that government ministries should be moved south from Taipei is reasonable, and one the government could start considering right away.

This is especially so given that the central government has recently been actively promoting a structural reform of government. It would be a good idea to use impending reforms under which the country will have five special municipalities to make long-term plans for their future. This change of direction should go beyond the situation we saw a few years ago, when there was talk of moving central government ministries south, but in the end, only the Fisheries Agency moved to Kaohsiung.

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