At the very least, a comparison could be made between dedicating the land to other uses such as these and the genuinely attainable benefits of commercial use.
In the past, the Council for Economic Planning and Development stipulated that a financial analysis be carried out for any engineering project costing more than NT$1 billion (US$33.2 billion), as well an economic analysis — in other words, a cost-benefit analysis.
Although the current plans for the former air force headquarters do not involve any government spending, it is a huge project that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
It is therefore odd that no social cost-benefit analysis has been carried out to assess the project, instead all it took was a meeting of representatives of various departments — seemingly under the spell of the Roppongi effect — to come to an instant decision on the matter.
The role played by the Taipei City Government has also been strange.
Even amid the intense competition between cities around the world, the government of Taiwan’s capital has so far failed to come up with long-term development goals or a strategic plan for land use.
Should government offices be dispersed more widely? Should land devoted to commercial use be more concentrated? How can we provide housing for medium and low-income households?
All these questions are relevant to the optimum usage of the land at the former air force headquarters. Does Taipei have no view about what is done with its own territory? Is it incapable of doing anything other than implementing decisions made hurriedly by central government officials?
Whether the air force site is put to the best possible use is quite an important issue, but an even bigger issue for the nation is the sloppy and rash way in which the central and local governments make their decisions.
Hua Chang-i is a former professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Building and Planning.
Translated by Julian Clegg