Five mayors and commissioners from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday appealed to the central government for more flood-prevention budget assistance after five cities and counties in southern Taiwan were hit by devastating floods last week.
Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠), Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) and Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chih-hung (曹啟鴻) demanded immediate allocation of a special flood prevention budget at a joint press conference in Greater Tainan yesterday, with DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) making the same request.
The local government heads — all of whom received heavy criticism after serious flooding caused by Tropical Storm Kong-Rey — said annual budgets for flood prevention greater than the NT$1.45 billion (US$49 million) budget allocated for this year would be important after the eight-year NT$80 billion flood-prevention program ends this year.
“Without the budget, the construction projects in various counties and cities would have to be suspended,” Chang said.
The mayors and commissioners requested either a three-year NT$30 billion budget, or a three-year NT$60 billion budget.
At a separate news conference, Su Tseng-chang called on the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to step up flood-prevention efforts and to “resolve people’s flooding plight.”
As extreme climate events have become the norm, Ma is advised to carry on the progress achieved by the NT$80 billion flood-prevention program — initiated by the DPP administration in 2006 — the chairman said, adding that the Special Act for Flood Management (水患治理特別條例) was proposed and approved when the DPP was in power.
Former minister of economic affairs Shih Yen-hsiang (施顏祥) pledged a NT$60 billion project in the legislature in November last year, but the budget was rescinded by the Council for Economic Planning and Development, DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
“When it refused to allocate the necessary flood-prevention funds, it was clear the government was only making empty promises [about tackling flood prevention],” Ker said.
Responding to a media inquiry about the proposed budget, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) expressed reservations, saying that flood prevention requires comprehensive planning based on river basins, rather than counties and cities.
Wang said projects in the past have been piecemeal.
The legislative speaker nevertheless expressed support of suspending cost increases of water, electricity and gas for flood victims in the affected areas.
Wang also said that a tax raise, which reportedly was an option for the Ministry of Finance to generate revenues if the flood-prevention budget was to be allocated, could be an option if it was deemed necessary and was accepted by the public to pay for flood prevention.
However, the ministry denied media reports that it planned a number of measures, including raising the business tax rate to 6 percent and enlarging the tax base for luxury taxes, to bring in more tax revenue.
While some of the measures were considered and the ministry was working on the flood-prevention budget issue, the ministry said in a press release: “The time is not right for raising taxes.”