EDITORIAL: Use New Year’s budget purposefully

Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - Page 8

At the end of the year, many people are thinking about where to spend New Year’s Eve. Businesses and government departments are racking their brains and using their connections to find a place for the year-end employee dinner and give everyone a splendid end to the year. However, not everyone is interested in these events. Internet users have launched a campaign to stop these celebrations.

The first person to attack the New Year’s Eve celebration was writer Liu Ka-shiang (劉克襄) who said: “In many cities and counties, the single biggest cultural expenditure in a year is concentrated in a few hours during a single day, when it goes up in smoke with all the fireworks. Even more ridiculous, all the remaining literary and cultural expenditures during the year added together probably still do not add up to the expenditures of that one day.”

The New Year’s Eve celebrations in the nation’s cities and counties are contracted out to several entertainment companies. They race up and down the length of the nation, the same faces performing the same programs in different places at different times, burning through budgets in a matter of hours.

It is not surprising then that the Secondary and Elementary School Principals Association of the Republic of China (全國中小學校長協會) is demanding that these funds, reaching hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars, be spent on sending disadvantaged children to school instead of letting the next generation’s educational expenditure go up in smoke.

New Year’s Eve celebrations, or year-end employee dinners, are in fact a bit like the dessert after a meal. Alone, they will not fill you up, but they do fill in the gaps. Despite being small, they can be the highlight that completes the meal. If that highlight is missing, the whole exercise could be unremarkable and unappealing.

Both Liu and the principals admit as much, and said they do not disapprove of celebrations, but the money has to be spent in the right way.

All such celebratory activities are lackluster and tediously repetitive. Lazy organizers pay entertainment companies huge amounts of money and it eventually all ends up in the same pockets.

If organizers had a cultural perspective and dared be innovative and ignore the media, they could invite various performance groups such as Paper Windmill Theater or the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre to show off their different skills and art forms. Doing this would save a lot of money, and would provide performers and artistic groups with an opportunity to strengthen the nation’s arts and culture.

Every budget allocation falls under a certain headline and has a certain purpose. New Year’s Eve celebrations or fireworks displays carry a certain significance that should not be neglected. What is not necessary, though, is spending huge amounts of the budget on the same type of event.

If Taipei has the ability to organize a huge event and put on a great fireworks display, that does not mean other cities and counties have to organize the same kind of event. Organizations could do something different. Taitung County and Hualien County, for example, could focus on celebrating the sunrise. Another approach could be arranging a rotating event that would visit different cities and counties, much like the Taiwan Lantern Festival. This would be one way to save money and avoid cut-throat competition.