Thu, May 03, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Kaohsiung Harbor deal sparks furor

FIGHT FOR AUTHORITY Management of the harbor will be transferred to the Kaohsiung City Government, but the decision was decried by some as pandering to the city's mayor, Frank Hsieh

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Minister of Transportation and Communications yesterday confirmed that the government plans to transfer managerial authority for Kaohsiung Harbor from the central government's Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau to the Kaohsiung City Government.

However, Minister Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) denied that the move was designed to blunt pressure from Kaohsiung mayor and DPP Chairman, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

Hsieh has been highly critical of the government in recent days, saying, "Neither President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) nor Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) has instructed the ministry to implement the proposal on the basis of an administrative decree."

It is thought within some political and legal circles that un-der an administrative decree, a member of the Cabinet may give instructions for the proposal to be enacted, without the need for legislation.

"The ministry is taking the initiative to study the feasibility of establishing an ad hoc administrative board to implement the proposal before the legislature has passed the requisite legislation and support measures," Yeh said.

She added that she hoped the board would be formed before May 20, as the proposal had been one of Chen's campaign promises. To achieve this, it would be necessary for an administrative decree to be issued.

Yeh added that the establishment of such a board would allow the Kaohsiung City Government to participate in the harbor's management during the transition period, but the city would not enjoy any share of the harbor's revenues or control over its personnel during the transition.

Though the proposal was not on the agenda for the Cabinet's weekly meeting yesterday morning, Chang endorsed the proposal in the afternoon and urged the legislature to "pass the necessary legislation as soon as possible so that the harbor can be granted the status of a quasi-governmental institution."

Chang added that it had been Cabinet policy for a long time to introduce the proposal and that the Cabinet had submitted related bills to the legislature for review.

The law requires that the harbor become a quasi-governmental institution before it may be transferred to the authority of the Kaohsiung City Government.

Once the harbor becomes such an institution, it will be partially independent of central government although its control over navigation and its power to appoint board members will remain unaffected.

Though the ministry's plan yesterday attracted criticism from several legislators including the DPP's Wang Tuoh (王拓) and Chung Chin-kiang (鍾金江), DPP legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) from Kaohsiung welcomed it, saying "Justice, though long-awaited, has finally prevailed."

"This is only the first step. The central government should later carry out some decentralization and empower local government with the authority to allocate [harbor] budgets and to deal with administrative matters. Before long, the ideal of [turning Kao-hsiung into] a special trade zone can be implemented to enable Kaohsiung's economy to prosper," Chen Chi-mai said.

Wang and Chung Chin-kiang, however, said yesterday that the ministry would risk violating the law if it put the proposal into effect on the basis of its own administrative decree before the bill had been passed by the Legislative Yuan.Chung said that he could not accept such an arrangement, saying, "The administration [of the harbor] should not be interfered with by political forces."

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