Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) was denounced by Taipei City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for allegedly squandering taxpayers’ money by spending NT$2.3 billion (US$79.3 million) on the city’s public relations — which Kao said was spent mostly promoting Hau himself.
Suspecting that Hau’s underlying motive was to mount a campaign push to be nominated as the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Kao on Friday accused Hau of extravagantly wasting public money, while concrete results of the city government’s performance were imperceptible to the public.
According to Kao, during Hau’s his first mayoral term from 2007 to 2010, the amount spent on publicity and promotional activities by Hau’s administration was NT$1.4 billion. That amount was twice the amount of the about NT$600 million spent by Hau’s predecessor, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), during Ma’s tenure as Taipei mayor from 2003 to 2006.
“Even more ridiculous is that Hau is only two years into his second term and yet he has already spent more than NT$850 million on publicity and promotional activities,” she said, adding that, in other words, Hau’s public relations spending amounted to more than NT$400 million per year.
The NT2.3 billion (US$792 million) spent by the Hau administraion over the past six years on publicity and promotional activities does not even include the NT$400 million spent on marketing and promotions for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, she said, or the NT$1.2 billion budgeted for publicity and promotions for the 2017 Summer Universiade.
Citing another example, Kao said that during Ma’s tenure as Taipei mayor, a budget of NT$2 million was approved for New Year’s Eve celebration events. However, since Hau has become mayor, the cost has steadily climbed to NT$8 million this year and to a proposed NT$15 million for next year’s event, she added.
“Hau ought not to squander any more funds on promoting these large-scale fireworks events. If Hau continues such lavish spending, all citizens of Taipei will be saddled with a heavy debt load when his term is up, while he can simply walk away,” Kao said.
In response, the Department of Cultural Affairs said its publicity budget helped to promote the city’s Taipei Symphony Orchestra’s programs and the Taipei Biennial arts events, while the Department of Sports said the increased spending on publicity and promotion events was caused by the city’s hosting of the Summer Deaflympics, as well as the 2017 Summer Universiade.
Meanwhile, Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said that in the six years that Hau has been in office, the number of people attending the various festivals and events held by the city government has increased, proving that the city government’s efforts at improving the city are working.
While some of the events could still be improved upon, the city government believes that the public has witnessed the mayor’s efforts and appreciates them, Chang added.