Sun, Nov 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Moving the capital best bet to halt drift north

By Huang Tzu-wei 黃子維

As campaigning for the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections draw to a close, beipiao (北漂), or “northward drift,” has become a popular buzzphrase. The term has exposed the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) flaws during their presidential terms, as well as the unhappiness of many residents in the nation’s south.

During the KMT’s time, it focused more on the the north than the south, and most modern infrastructure was concentrated in and around Taipei.

For example, over the past two decades, the government has spent hundreds of billions of New Taiwan dollars building an MRT network of more than 100km connecting more than 100 stations in Taipei and New Taipei City, with the airport line going into Taoyuan. However, the total combined length of such lines elsewhere is much shorter than in Taipei.

The DPP has a firm grasp on areas in the south, having strongholds in Yunlin, Chiayi and Pingtung counties, as well as Tainan and Kaohsiung, where voters have repeatedly favored the party in city and county councilor, legislative, county commissioner, city mayor and even presidential elections, helping it keep winning at the grassroots level all the way to the pinnacle of power.

However, the reality is that people are leaving those cities and counties, their populations are aging, real-income growth is slow and the areas lack the strength to push for industrial transformation, despite voters’ strong support for the DPP and its “Taiwanese values.” The party’s slogan, “green rule, quality guaranteed,” is deflated by northward drift. This is precisely why KMT Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has caused such a sensation in the city — a stronghold of the green camp — in just a few months.

Although DPP-leaning southern cities and counties have been big winners, gaining a substantial share of the budget for the Cabinet’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program — which is to go toward new metro lines in Tainan and Kaohsiung — and although the Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts opened last month and the Maritime Cultural and Popular Music Center is to open in Kaohsiung next year, the key to reversing northward drift continues to be job opportunities and wages. What really matters to Kaohsiung residents is having a good job; their travel options and whether they can attend a concert are trivial in comparison.

For the DPP — which controls the presidency, the Cabinet and the legislature — the question of how to quickly reverse northward drift is crucial if it wishes to retain its national and local seats.

Relocating the capital might be the only effective option. It could be done by gradually moving agencies of the executive branch, or by first moving the Legislative Yuan.

Once started, thousands of people could be quickly moved south, which would create demand for housing, meeting facilities, dining, schooling and daily necessities.

After the move, top government officials and lawmakers in charge of national resources would have to stop viewing the world solely from a Taipei perspective. Having moved southward, they would understand needs there, as they would be residents.

Instead of empty slogans urging young people to return to their hometowns to work and encouraging businesses to invest in the south, government officials should set an example by relocating the capital and redistributing national resources.

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