Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Project's delay might harm DPP

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although the delay of the Suao-Hualien freeway construction project may have limited impact on the voting intentions of Hualien County's electorate during next March's presidential poll, political observers yesterday warned that the incident may deliver a deadly blow to the image of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.

"The incident gives the public the impression that the DPP administration reneges easily on its promises and crudely maps out its policies," said Ger Yeong-kuang (葛永光), a professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

Ger's opinion was echoed by Wang Yeh-lih (王業立), chairman of the Department of Political Science at Tunghai University in Taichung.

"The government should've taken into account opposing opinions during its decision-making process, instead of churning out pork-barrel policies to woo the electorate or changing its tack at the last minute," he said.

"It makes the public wonder whether the other nine projects will also end up this way," he said.

The NT$96.2 billion project is one of the 10 new construction projects included in the five-year, NT$500 billion public construction package, which the Cabinet wants approved by the legislature.

While the Cabinet has sent the special bill pertaining to the project to the legislature, the Cabinet is scheduled to approve the NT$500 billion special budget on Wednesday.

Although political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝) agreed that the controversy has limited regional impact, he said, however, that it does not necessarily create a negative image for the DPP as a whole.

"The decision was made, after all, under local pressure," he said.

Bowing to pressure exerted by local environmentalists, Premier Yu Shyi-kun announced on Thursday that the Cabinet will delay the construction of the 86km freeway connecting Suao, Ilan County and Hualien County for three months, despite his pledge to kick off the project by the end of the year.

Irked by the Cabinet's "policy U-turn," opposition lawmakers charged on Friday that the project had been put on hold for political gain in an attempt to attract votes from local environmentalists.

The idea of constructing a freeway in eastern Taiwan was first proposed by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in 1990 as part of a plan to build an island-wide freeway system.

The KMT government mapped out the plan for the Suao-Hualien Freeway in January 2000, two months before the DPP won the presidential election.

The Environmental Protection Administration approved an impact study in June 2000, and the DPP administration announced in December last year that construction would start this month.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the NT$500 project, the Cabinet is gearing up efforts to win over independent lawmakers to underpin its veto motion of certain articles of the just-passed Referendum Law (公民投票法).

The opposition KMT has alleged that the Cabinet is using the construction project as a bargaining chip to court independents, who play a decisive role in the plan-blue dominated legislature.

If the allegation proves true, Ger said that the public will be very disappointed with the DPP administration, which boasts of a clean political record.

"It's pathetic that the government publicly bribes the lawmaking body in exchange for passing its initiatives," he said.

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