Playing down remarks he made on Saturday that “the government lacks brains” and that “think tanks only care about winning elections,” Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) yesterday said he was not criticizing anyone in particular and that he believes it is the nation’s approach to certain issues that needs to change.
“I would like to make it clear that I was not talking about anyone in particular when I made those remarks. The problem is not with any individual, rather, it is a problem with the system and it is the system that needs to be reformed,” Lee told reporters during a brief press conference at the ministry’s headquarters.
“My words should not be taken out of context,” he said.
The minister made the comments in response to media reports about remarks he made during a speech at National Cheng Kung University about the water shortages that the nation faces almost every year.
“What I meant to say was that, to solve the issue of droughts, the government should come up with ideas other than building new reservoirs or cleaning existing ones,” he said.
“I think the government is spending too much energy handling problems that appear today, but not enough on coming up with a vision or direction that Taiwan should be heading toward in 20 or 30 years,” Lee said.
Having a long-term view when making policies is important, Lee said.
“When I took over as minister of the interior, my objective was to work on national spatial planning, but without clear policy direction, I do not know where the nation is heading, and therefore I cannot complete all that I want to achieve,” he said.
Citing the debate over whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) should be completed and begin commercial operations as an example, Lee said that political leaders should be provided with accurate information in order to make educated decisions.
“We need experts to provide information to decision-makers, so they can analyze all the options. The energy issue is not something that can be decided by a group of ministers in a meeting room,” Lee said.
“This is what we need think tanks for, but unfortunately, most think tanks seems only to care about how to defeat their political rivals,” he said.
“National policies should be formulated according to political leaders’ visions for Taiwan, not based on winning or losing elections,” he added.
Speaking on the issue of water shortages, Lee said that Taiwan does not need to build new reservoirs, as there is already a reservoir at all suitable locations.
Learning from the experiences of Singapore and Israel — which also lack water resources — Lee said that water recycling may be the solution.
On average the nation disposes of 2.6 million tonnes of water a day and if half of that amount could be recycled, it would be enough to supply water for the 4 million residents of New Taipei City (新北市), who consume about 1.2 million tonnes of water a day, he said.
“Although both Singapore and Israel supply recycled water for daily consumption, I understand that many people in Taiwan are still psychologically averse to the idea, so my proposal is that initially recycled water would only be used for industrial purposes,” the minister said.
He said that he had already proposed the idea to Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) and Mao was supportive of the plan.
“At the moment, we’ve reached a deal with China Steel Corp (中鋼) in Greater Kaohsiung to provide recycled water for it to use for cooling once a water recycling plant has been completed in the city,” Lee said.
“So far, we plan to build eight water recycling plants — two in Taoyuan, two in Greater Taichung, two in Greater Tainan and two in Greater Kaohsiung — and hopefully, they would begin operating by 2016,” he said.