Taipei’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission released a survey last week on residents’ perceptions of the city. The results showed that 83 percent of respondents love living in the capital, while only 11 percent said they do not. Of those who said they love the city, 95 percent cited its convenient transportation as a primary reason, while 83 percent lauded the high-quality medical services. Multiple educational facilities, a wide variety of food and an abundance of recreational facilities were also listed as top advantages of life in Taipei.
The city government used the poll to promote Taipei’s reputation and its own achievements. However, it did not explore the reasons why 11 percent of respondents said they do not love Taipei. It also failed to take a closer look at residents’ dissatisfaction with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) major campaign platform, as the poll indicated that a road-smoothing project, the 2017 Summer Universiade and public housing unit construction are the three least-favorite Taipei projects receiving approval from just 28 percent, 27 percent and 26 percent of respondents respectively.
Huang Ming-tsai (黃銘材), deputy commissioner of the commission, said that there has been too much negative coverage of Taipei’s problems, and the poll was designed to look at the city from a positive perspective.
“If Taipei is such a bad place, why would so many people choose to live there?” he said.
There is nothing wrong in taking pride in Taipei and promoting the advantages of the city, but a city government that does not make the effort to find out what people do not like about the city and examine its problems only reveals its arrogance and lack of vision.
Recent surveys conducted by domestic media outlets have suggested that Taipei tops the competitiveness ranking among the nation’s 22 administrative districts for its economy, educational level, social welfare services and infrastructure. However, the sense of well-being among Taipei residents is relatively low in some areas. Hau’s approval rating placed in the bottom five of the 22 local government heads.
The gap between the city’s competitiveness and the approval rating of the mayor, as well as the perceptions of Taipei residents, highlighted the city government’s failure to take full advantage of the rich resources and other conditions that put Taipei ahead of other cities and build a metropolis that really works for its residents.
Hau has promised to reflect upon his performance with humility, while attributing his low approval rating to the lack of promotion of city projects. Since taking office in 2006, Hau and his team have invested a great deal of effort and money in hosting international activities to raise the city’s international profile, spending tens of millions of NT dollars on the Taipei Deaflympics in 2009 and the Taipei International Flora Expo in 2010. This year, the city government has submitted budgets of NT$20 billion (US$685.5 million) for the hosting of the 2017 Summer Universiade and NT$290 million to cover bidding to become a World Design Capital as part of its budget proposals for next year.
While the city government says large-scale international events boost Taipei’s international reputation, the problems that surfaced with contracts and expenditure for the floral expo, and the continuing debate over maintenance and usage of the expo’s remaining facilities have prompted concern over the potential impact of the Universiade on the city.
As a recent poll suggests, the 2017 Universiade is among residents’ least favorite proposal, and Hau’s administration must work harder to explore the reasons behind this public dissatisfaction. The city government should use the poll to recognize the issues that concern the public — such as skyrocketing housing prices — and seek to solve them. Only focusing at its advantages will not make Taipei a great city.