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Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Chen promises greater say for township chiefs

LOCAL ACTION The President-elect said he would transfer tax rights to counties, but remained guarded on doing away with county commissioner elections

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) reaffirmed his campaign platform of devolving more power to local governments, and having more of their voices heard at the central level, while speaking to a group of local DPP leaders yesterday.

Chen stressed the importance of local policies, and pledged to push for more communication between county-level officials and the Executive Yuan.

"National policy is a sum of local policies," Chen told the group of 20 DPP township chiefs in Taipei.

"The `bottom-up' approach to policy implementation is the key to the success of national policies," Chen said.

The comments were also made against the backdrop of a dramatic shift in local governments controlled by the DPP. In December 1997, the party won the leadership of 13 of 23 city and county chiefs in a key election that put two-thirds of Taiwan's population under the party's control.

Currently, the DPP also heads 34 out of the 390 townships in Taiwan.

Chen pledged to set up direct communication channels between county-level leaders and either the Premier or the Vice Premier.

With the exception of the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung Cities, who attend the weekly meeting as members of the Executive Yuan, other cities and counties in Taiwan lack such representation in the central government.

Chen also promised the new government would provide more funding to local governments, as well as amend current legislation to allow counties to determine and collect their own taxes in another meeting with county commissioners yesterday.

He said when the central government takes over the collection of business taxes, the tax revenue will be entirely deposited in the Overall Planning Fund (統籌款) -- an estimated NT$250 billion pool of money set aside for emergency use and local development.

However, Chen remained guarded on the issue of eliminating the election of township chiefs and downsizing Taiwan's government structure to only the central and county level.

The group of local officials urged Chen to follow through on the consensus reached at the National Development Conference in 1996 to downsize townships and the provincial government -- which was eliminated in 1998. In the place of elections, township chiefs would be politically appointed by county commissioners.

However, Chen would likely face fierce opposition from the KMT if he was to push for the reform.

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