The newly elected mayors of the nation’s five special municipalities raised the issue of financial difficulties at their first Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Saying he understood their concerns, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was quoted by Executive Yuan spokesman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) as saying that “the same misgivings as they pertain to the heads of the 17 counties and cities” was an issue that also needed to be taken into account.
In accordance with the Organic Act of the Executive Yuan (行政院組織法), mayors of the special municipalities are allowed to attend the Cabinet’s weekly meeting. New Taipei City (新北市, the proposed name of the upgraded Taipei County), Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kao-hsiung began operating as special municipalities on Saturday, after residents chose their mayors in high-profile elections on Nov. 27.
Including Taipei City, the five special municipalities are home to about 60 percent of the country’s population.
The municipalities are supposed to enjoy larger budgets than those allocated to them previously. However, amendments to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) and Public Debt Act (公共債務法) have yet to clear the legislature and thereby adapt to their changes in status.
Minister of Finance Lee Sush-der (李述德) had said that the central government would allocate an extra of NT$98.2 billion (US$3.37 billion) to local governments if the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures is passed, of which NT$60 billion would go to the five special municipalities.
The amendment to the Public Debt Act was aimed at raising the debt ceiling by easing regulations on loans taken out by local governments.
Several heads of local government in the nation’s 17 counties and cities have expressed opposition to the amendment, which they said could make the well-off cities better-off and seriously undermine the finances of less well-off local governments.
To address this issue, Wu had instructed the Executive Yuan’s Legal Affairs Committee to draw up interim measures to help local governments overcome financial difficulties, in recognition of the fact that the amendments were unlikely to clear the legislative floor before its recess on Jan. 12.
Meanwhile, Minister of the Council of Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Christine Liu (劉憶如) said the council would work closely with the municipalities to encourage international investors to invest in the cities as a way to help the local governments to boost the economy and raise funds.