Sun, Dec 19, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Changes concern local governments

ZERO-SUM GAME:Cities and counties across the nation are expecting to lose money to the special municipalities and called on the central government to increase their budgets

By Wu Shih-tsung and Ting Wei-chieh  /  Staff Reporters

Ahead of the official designation of the nations “five special municipalities,” seven other cities and counties have decided to take a more active approach in demanding higher budgetary allocations from the central government.

When the newly elected or re-elected mayors of Taiwan’s five special municipalities — Taipei City, Sinbei City, Greater Tai-chung, Greater Tainan, and Greater Kaohsiung — take their oaths on Saturday, the “era of the five special municipalities” officially begins. This has led to concerns among -local government heads in the rest of the country that they could suffer financially as a result of the latest local government reorganization.

While Taipei City has been a special municipality since 1967, Taipei County is to receive an administrative upgrade to become Sinbei City, Taichung City and County are to merge to become Greater Taichung, Tainan City and County will merge to create Greater Tainan and, although Kaohsiung City has been a special municipality since 1979, it will be merged with Kaohsiung County, creating a much bigger special municipallity.

Seriously indebted to the -extent that the payment of salaries to county government employees has been delayed several times, Yunlin County Government said it hopes a new budgetary bill will pass as soon as possible, increasing its revenue.

With 90 percent of the county government’s income coming directly from central government subsidies, Penghu County is aggressively pleading for a 10-year extension of the Offshore Island Development Fund.

On the other hand, Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) urged the Executive Yuan to push harder for the adoption of a bill on the development of Hualien and Taitung Counties at the legislature. With the passage of the bill, Fu said that the county could receive a total of NT$50 billion (US$1.6 billion) in subsidies from the central government over a 10-year period.

Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said that while there is the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) for outlying island counties, it is worth considering whether counties and cities experiencing financial difficulties such as Yilan County need their own special laws so that more resources can be allocated to them.

Lin said he is worried that, without additional resources, county and city governments could become little more than “training centers” for public servants, since staff in financially disadvantaged local governments are likely to want to leave and work for the central or special municipality governments if they get a chance.

Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻), meanwhile, said he is worried that cities with smaller populations — such as Pingtung City — could decline quickly following the expansion of special municipalities and transformation of business types. He urged the central government to draft plans for such smaller cities to help ensure that they survive.

Nantou County Commissioner Lee Chao-ching (李朝卿) believes that the national government should reduce the amount of resources allocated to cities and counties outside the five special municipalities. and called on the central government to provide more assistance to counties and cities without administrative upgrades and currently facing difficulties.

Other cities and counties — including Keelung and Hsinchu cities, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Changhua and Chiayi counties — are also expecting to be adversely impacted by the five special municipalities to some extent and have called on the central government to have plans in place to deal with any and all contingencies.

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