The nation’s five special municipalities, home to 60 percent of the population, began operations yesterday, starting a new phase in Taiwan’s administrative history.
Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市, the proposed name of the upgraded Taipei County), Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung began operating as megacities almost one month after the residents of the five municipalities, including Taipei City, chose their mayors in high-profile elections on Nov. 27.
In addition to Taipei City and New Taipei City, the other three cities were expanded through a merger of two administrative districts.
Greater Taichung is the result of a merger of Taichung City and Taichung County; Greater Tainan a merger of Tainan City and Tainan County; and Greater Kaohsiung a merger of Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County.
According to Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), the change is aimed at making the five megacities “spearheads of Taiwan’s regional development” and “cores of the three living areas of northern, central and southern Taiwan.”
The new system is not likely to affect the everyday life of the 13.7 million residents in the five cities, but integrating local governments and administrative branches are likely to present a big challenge in the cities where mergers took place.
Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung both split their agencies into two parts to keep them in their original office buildings, while Greater Taichung opted for three office buildings in different parts of its administrative area.
Effective yesterday, townships (鄉鎮) and county-administered cities (市) are renamed “districts (區)” and villages (村) will be renamed “boroughs (里).” District chiefs are to be appointed by mayors rather than being elected, as was previously the case.
Township councils have been disbanded, which means thousands of township and city councilmen have lost their jobs.
Newly elected mayors have focused on the financial aspects of the new city governments. Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) publicly expressed concern that the city would be in financial trouble if budget allocating procedures and tax regulations were not reformed.
New Taipei City faced a different problem — trying to figure out what to call itself in English. Mayor-elect Eric Chu (朱立倫) has announced that he wanted the new city’s English name to be “New Taipei City,” because Sinbei means “new Taipei” in Chinese.
However, the move was blocked by the Ministry of the Interior for now, with Deputy Interior Minister Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) saying the ministry would discuss the proposal with Chu at a later date.