Sat, Dec 04, 2010 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Special municipalities pose future problems

By Tzou Jing-wen  /  Staff Reporter

Yeh Jiunn-rong, a professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Law, gestures during an interview on Nov. 25.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: After the recent special municipality elections, a new form of local political system will emerge. What is your opinion of the conditions and limitations of this new system?

Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮): When the Republic of China government was still in China, it was organized into provincial, city and county level governments. Some of the city-level governments were special municipalities directly controlled by the central government. After the government moved to Taiwan, these classifications were kept despite the fact that Taiwan was much smaller both in area and population than China. Since the classifications were not changed to fit the new circumstances, local governments were split into two categories: Direct-controlled — Taipei City and Kaohsiung City — and non-direct-controlled. The latter groups were further split into categories of regular cities and counties, of which there were 16, and five provincial municipalities. Money, power and people were all allocated according to this system.

Forty-three percent of the central government’s Tax Redistribution Fund is given to direct-controlled municipalities, while 39 percent is given to the other counties and cities. More power is given to special municipalities, too. In terms of organization, this allows these municipalities to establish more bureaus, have more political appointees and have higher--ranking officials. This results in major discrepancies between different cities and counties.

This also means that more and more cities and counties outside of Taipei want to be upgraded. The main reason behind this is poverty or dissatisfaction with finance, power and personnel. This dissatisfaction is mainly caused by comparisons with Taipei City. Therefore, the difference between special municipalities and other cities and counties is in itself a problem.

There are two ways we could solve this problem.

One way is get rid of special municipalities. There may be some need to have special municipalities in countries with large territories and populations, but there is no need for this in Taiwan. Therefore, it is better if we go back to having the original city/county model.

The other way would be to keep special municipalities. That is the approach we are adopting now. However, we have to get it right. The reason I say this is because since we have now let some areas upgrade, how can we say no to allowing others to upgrade? By keeping the system of special municipalities we will continue to increase the discrepancies between these municipalities and the regular cities and counties. The special municipality elections last Saturday show the polarization between the new special municipalities and the nation’s other cities and counties.

Now that we have held the special municipality elections, and we will have five of them, if other cities and counties are not upgraded in the future, they will have to be merged. However, this makes the whole situation more difficult.

For example, Taitung and Hualien have populations of 270,000 and 340,000 respectively, which combined is still less than the population of Banciao (板橋) at 540,000. However, places like Taitung and Hualien will have to be merged, otherwise they would be at even more of a disadvantage and receive less funding and resources than they do now.

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