Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Questions hang over wardens' role in society

SHADOWY FIGURES Many residents, especially the young, do not know what the newly elected borough chiefs do and are concerned they are in it for the job's perks

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City's recent borough-warden elections, the fiercest elections of their type ever held in Taiwan, finally came to an end yesterday.

However, the elections not only drew markedly-less attention from the young and those with a higher level of education, but the wardens themselves are increasingly being viewed as mere "vote-captains" whose loyalties lie only with those further up the political chain.

Borough wardens, the lowest level of officials elected, work to help the community, with duties such as applying for national health insurance cards and maintaining the environment.

But the role of borough warden can be lucrative, observers said, because their standing as "vote-captains," whose job it is to strengthen and solicit support for candidates in higher-level elections, often sees them moonlighting as brokers in vote-buying deals.

Editor-in-chief of Contemporary Magazine Chin Heng-wei (金恆偉) yesterday told the Taipei Times, "The borough-warden elections should be abolished. They hold virtually no function for society."

"The reason so many candidates compete for the post is because the job is so lucrative."

"The borough wardens remit is extremely small ? the work they do could be easily replaced by other public agencies such as the police department or the district administrative office," Chin said.

"These elections are basically a waste of social funds," Chin remarked.

A total of 1,384 candidates participated in the elections, competing for 499 posts.

According to the law governing subsidies for borough wardens, they are given a monthly allowance of NT$45,000 to pay for stationary, postal, electric and water bills. They are also given an annual NT$200,000 subsidy for local construction expenditures.

Apart from these official subsides, borough wardens also receive a great deal of contributions or compensation returns, ranging from NT$30,000 to tens of millions of NT dollars, from local construction works or public facilities that might drag down the living quality of the nearby communities such as incinerators or landfill sites.

One benefit that has just been canceled by the city government is the yearly NT$45,000 holiday bonus for the Lunar New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Borough wardens are also allowed to hold other jobs as the post is not considered full-time.

A recent poll has shown that young people and well-educated groups know the least about the function of wardens.

The poll, conducted by the Association of Observing Borough Wardens last Thursday, showed that more than 57 percent of Taipei residents do not know what the duties of borough wardens are and nearly 59 percent would not be able to give the contact information of their respective wardens.

The poll also revealed that of the 42.6 percent of the interviewees who what borough wardens do, 10 percent thought they are simply responsible for holding recreation fairs and excursions for communities, while 6.78 percent thought they mainly worked to maintain the environment.

The survey had a total of 1,077 respondents with a three percent margin of error.

The poll also showed that 5 percent of the interviewees with an elementary school level of education and 7 percent of respondents with secondary school education said they would not go to vote. However, about 82 percent of those polled with a graduate school-level education said they would not vote.

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