Dec .1 elections: Chu duke it out in Taoyuan

Home to CKS International Airport, seven industrial parks and 1.7 million residents, Taoyuan County is the second-largest county in Northern Taiwan. The seat for county commissioner is being hotly contested with KMT candidate Chu Li-luan leading the polls. Trailing Chu is the DPP's Perng Shaw-jiin. The two lawmakers recently spoke with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Crystal Hsu on their visions for the county and why they think they can win. While Perng asserts that his opponent rarely visits his constituents and has had far too little experience in politics, Chu insists that experience is not a prerequisite for success and that it's time Taoyuan had another party calling the shots

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Tue, Nov 13, 2001 - Page 4

Taipei Times: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Taoyuan, if any?

Chu Li-luan (朱立倫): There are at least three areas where improvements can, and should, be made.

First, the county's finances have experienced a sharp deterioration over the past few years. When the KMT vacated the county government in 1997, there was a budget surplus of NT$6 billion. Today, the county's treasury is NT$10 billion in the red.

Second, major industries in the county have slipped into a state of lethargy. Taoyuan used to be the leading county in terms of industrial productivity, but now its rank is sliding, with total output shrinking by 20 percent. Though there are seven industrial parks in Taoyuan, the county government has been slow in wooing investment. What is worse, the DPP administration, be it local or central, has given the impression of opposing business interests and discouraging investments with its environmental and labor policies.

Third, an increasing number of residents here are dissatisfied with their quality of life. Polls show that approval ratings for the county administration stand at 40 percent, with many frowning on the county's traffic, education and environmental conditions.

Against this backdrop, there is strong public sentiment that it is time a candidate from a different party be given the chance to run the county.

TT: How will you address the problems you just mentioned if you are elected?

Chu: With a doctoral degree in accounting and a master's degree in finance, I know the cures to those maladies and have detailed them in my position papers. I am an instructor of business administration, so I also know how to enhance government efficiency.

I have pledged to create at least 10,000 jobs within a year if elected.

In that time, I will also repair all the potholes in the roads and fix all the traffic lights county-wide. Meanwhile, I will introduce a policy to enhance use of the county's mass transportation system to improve traffic flow.

TT: As a recent newcomer to politics, are you familiar with Tao-yuan's geography, people and local politics?

Chu: I would not worry about that. Though I have been a politician for only three years, I am quite familiar with local affairs. I have always been a Taoyuan resident -- I was born here 40 years ago. My family and relatives have been involved in local politics for more than four decades.

Neither Tainan County Commissioner Mark Chen (陳唐山) nor Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had any administrative experience before they assumed office. But both score highly in their approval ratings.

Experience is definitely a plus, but it is not a prerequisite for a good administration.

TT: How are your ties with local heavyweights and do you plan to court People First Party and New Party supporters?

Chu: I'm pretty familiar with local political and social leaders. However, I have no intention of following all the old practices -- pleasing them through the allocation of public project funds.

Now that we are in the 21st century, I think it is time to be innovative when it comes to local politics.

As for cross-party cooperation, I don't think that is a problem either. Both the PFP and the New Party have voiced support for my bid. PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and his deputy Chang Chau-hsiung (張昭雄) have both spoken well of me at various social gatherings.

TT: How much money will the campaign cost you and how large is your campaign staff?

Chu: I don't have an exact figure. I guess it will take US$1 million, or NT$30 million to NT$40 million. The KMT provides me with considerable help but I cannot say how much. There are more than 100 workers on my campaign staff; 70 percent of whom are part-time.

TT: If elected, how will you interact with the central government?

Chu: Though the central government has to help implement major public programs, there is still ample room for the local government to maneuver.

There are quite a few strategic industries in Taoyuan, so the county government can play the role of a coordinator in an attempt to turn the economy around. After all, it is the local government that is responsible for issuing licenses and permits for public construction projects and overseeing their proper operation when they are finished.

As a lawmaker, I am known for effective coordinating and communication. That explains why so many bills I sponsored have been enacted. Of the 18 bills I introduced over the past three years, 11 have been adopted, including acts needed for financial reform. The recently passed electronic signature law was also my brainchild.

I was rated as the top lawmaker in budgetary review, questioning Cabinet officials more than 700 times.

TT: What will you do to convince Taoyuan residents to vote for you instead of Perng Shaw-jiin (彭紹瑾), the DPP candidate?

Chu: As a lawmaker, I outperform Perng according to various surveys, which also count me as one of the best legislators. Like the boy next door, I am also more amiable and better educated.

A native of Taoyuan, I have many friends and relatives, all of whom will try their best to canvass on my behalf.

In contrast, Perng, who was born in Hsinchu and moved to Taoyuan as an adult, will not elicit such amity from the voters as easily.

TT: How are your prospects of winning the election on Dec. 1?

Chu: All opinion polls show I lead Perng by 15 percentage points. But we will not take our rival lightly, as a sizable number of voters have yet to make their intentions known. We will try harder to bring this group into our fold in the run-up to the elections.

This morning, for instance, I visited two marketplaces and several public and private organizations to seek their support.