Newly appointed Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) minister Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday that the direct entry of Chinese tourists and cross-strait charter flight services on the weekend were the two things he would first seek to accomplish.
"This will be my first report card to you all," he said at a press conference, where he met the media for the first time after being named for the transportation minister post by incoming premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄).
Mao said yesterday he did not think Chinese tourists would be a cure-all for Taiwan's economy, but they would nevertheless bring some vitality to the nation.
Allowing Chinese tourists in is only a beginning, he said, adding that the problem "is what we can bring to the table."
Mao also commented on some of the other urgent issues facing the MOTC.
He said he had been monitoring media reports of Far Eastern Air Transport and Angkor Airways, both of which have temporarily suspended operations, leaving some travelers stranded.
"The bottom line is that we have to do everything we can to bring our people back," Mao said.
Mao said other domestic airlines were arranging additional flights to bring stranded tourists home.
Regarding the controversial Suhua Freeway, Mao said it is better to ask the residents in Hualien and Taitung whether they are satisfied with the transportation system they have at the moment.
Mao said the construction project must first be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Administration and it would take at least seven or eight years before the construction could be completed, however he said that the people in Hualien and Taitung could not wait that long.
"We have to ask what we can do now, this minute, to improve the transportation system on the east coast," he said, adding that the fastest way to start would be to work on the railway system.
Mao also supported the idea that the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) raise ticket fares for its commuter trains. Specifically, he agreed that passengers of TRA commuter trains should be charged like those taking the MRT system.
In the MRT system, passengers are charged an identical price when traveling within a certain distance. In the TRA system, on the other hand, passengers are charged by their traveling distance.
"It [raising the price] is only fair," he said. "They both serve the same corridor, and it is unreasonable for the TRA to sell tickets cheaply."
Mao is the dean of the College of Management at National Chiao Tung University.
From 1993 to 2000, he was the MOTC vice minister. In August 2000, he became the chairman of Chunghwa Telecom.
While Liu was the MOTC minister, he and Mao worked together and co-designed a plan to turn Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center.