Fri, Jul 28, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development: State-owned land raises ire at finance panel's meeting

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Delegates attending a financial panel yesterday engaged in heated discussion over how to dispose of state-owned land, with environmentalists pulling out all stops urging the reversal of decisions made at preparatory meetings.

Chen Man-li (陳曼麗), director of the National Union of Tai-wanese Women's Association, demanded that the government improve its state-land management mechanism, as historic buildings have been destroyed in the process of land development.

She said that state land, which belongs to the public, must not be used by government to facilitate private business development.

Her suggestion resulted in related decisions being put on hold until government agencies have the time to conduct further studies.

Sam Lin (林聖崇), head of the Ecology Conservation Alliance, urged the government to immediately cease the auctioning off or renting out of state land and suggested that the land be allocated to local governments for the establishment of national parks.

For example, parcels of land totaling 58,000 hectares owned by state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp should be retrieved for ecological purposes, he said.

His view was praised by former premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who chaired the meeting.

However, considering the nation's widening deficit, Siew said it might be a long time before Lin's suggestion came true, but he instructed the environmentalist's opinion to be listed in the meeting record for the Cabinet's evaluation.

Several delegates also urged a review of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) mechanisms to prevent scandals.

Wen Ping-yuan (溫炳原), secretary-general of the Green Party Taiwan, said the company who won the bid to develop the Beitou cable car project in Taipei was expected to garner a whopping NT$9 billion (US$275 million) in 30-year revenues, but the land rental would cost only NT$200 million, raising doubts of collusion with the government unit in charge of the project.

Lo Chih-ming (羅志明), secretary-general of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, echoed his views, saying that the controversial electronic toll collection project was one example of the flawed BOT mechanism.

The conference concluded that public infrastructure projects valued at over NT$1 billion should be carefully reviewed with government units assessing internal and external cost-benefit analyses. A professional and fair selection mechanism should be established to encourage the participation of private firms.

As for the controversy surrounding taxation on warrants, the conference concluded that the Cabinet should discuss the issue with the Ministry of Finance and settle it as soon as possible. Warrants are certificates that give the bearer the right to buy securities, gold or other commodities at a stated price for a stated period or at any time in the future.

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