Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Yu stumps up for Guggenheim plan

DIG DEEP The Cabinet is to provide another NT$2 billion for the museum project, as part of the NT$500 billion five-year public construction plan

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN NANTOU COUNTRY

A group of people gathers in front of the ruins of Kuangfu Middle School in Taichung County yesterday. The county government has decided that the school, which was destroyed during the 921 earthquake four years ago, should be kept as part of a memorial park.

PHOTO: CNA

Taichung City has finally got its wish for additional funding of NT$2 billion from the Executive Yuan for its planned establishment of a NT$6.4 billion branch of the Guggenheim Museum, Premier Yu Shyi-kun announced yesterday

"We'll fund the city 80 percent of the project, but no more than NT$5 billion, under the condition that the city is responsible for the planning, operation and management of the facility," Yu said, adding that the money would come from the Cabinet's soon-to-be-unveiled five-year, NT$500 billion public construction plan.

The same formula will also be applied to similar projects elsewhere in Taiwan, Yu said.

"Our ultimate goal is to see one regional art and culture center in the north, south and central Taiwan," Yu said. "In addition to the Guggenheim Museum in Taichung City, we're thinking of including the planned Austronesian Culture Park in Taitung County in the five-year, NT$500 billion project."

Yu spoke yesterday afternoon during a question and answer session for his trip to Nantou County to mark the fourth anniversary today of the Sept. 21, 1999, earthquake, which killed and injured more than 13,000 people. Nantou was one of the hardest-hit areas.

Yu agreed on Aug. 18 to grant Taichung City NT$3.2 billion -- half the cost -- toward its planned establishment branch of the Guggenheim Museum and said he would decide within three weeks whether to grant the city NT$2 billion more.

Also at the question session Yu was asked whether he was optimistic about the prospect of negotiating with China on indirect scheduled charter cargo flights.

Yu said that the government was willing to sit down and talk with its Chinese counterpart.

"There's no bottom line set for cross-strait negotiations because we're willing to talk with Beijing at any time, anywhere and about any topic, including the `one China' policy and two-way, direct flights," Yu said.

The government announced on Sept. 10 that domestic airlines will be allowed to operate indirect scheduled charter cargo flights to Shanghai for a year, starting Sept. 25.

Since only domestic airlines offering international flights are eligible to apply, Beijing has complained that Taiwan's government had made the decision unilaterally and called for the opening of two-way, direct flights.

Yu yesterday also reiterated the government's resolve to hold a referendum on or before next March's presidential election as pledged by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). "It's not only people's basic right to exercise the right of referendum but also a democratic norm," Yu said.

"Those who are worried about the governments plans for holding referendums or who feel referendum is like China's Cultural Revolution are afraid of the power of direct democracy," Yu said, alluding to remarks made by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) earlier in the week.

Although local governments have held more than 10 referendums so far, the country did not go wild, Yu said.

"And if an advisory referendum is similar to an opinion poll," as Ma had suggested Wednesday, "then there's no need to be afraid of holding one, is there?" Yu said

Responding to opposition lawmakers' allegations that the Cabinet had overblown its achievements in post-quake reconstruction efforts, Yu said that it was impossible for the government to lie about it since it was under the scrutiny of the media, the public and the Legislative Yuan.

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