Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday proposed decentralizing fiscal and political power to turn Taiwan into a multi-core nation with balanced regional development that would benefit the next generation.
The main theme of her policy on regional development is to “decompress” Taipei and the congested north and facilitate a “southward economy” that would benefit all Taiwanese, the DPP presidential candidate said in the second of a series of planned press conferences to unveil the DPP’s 10-year policy guidelines.
“Taiwan’s export and industrial production-oriented economy has over the years resulted in disparity between urban and rural areas; the northern and southern regions; as well as the eastern and western parts of Taiwan — and it ultimately created income inequality,” she said.
The glaring and worrisome disparity between different regions was the reason Tsai has proposed that the government should not invest all its resources in Taipei and the north, where about a quarter of the nation’s population resides.
The DPP intends to make a dramatic turnaround on national development policy, differing from that of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九), which Tsai said only focused on northern Taiwan and neglected other regions.
The northern and southern parts of Taiwan are facing different problems, she said, adding that while residents in the Taipei area enjoy more social resources and job opportunities, they are forced to endure a below-average quality of life.
Lack of efficiency in government funding under the Ma administration also contributed to the unbalanced regional development, Tsai said.
Tsai proposed transforming Taipei by funding large-scale urban redevelopment programs.
Local governments’ political power and fiscal power should also be expanded, Tsai said, so that they are able to play a lead role in regional development.
The new policy plans to develop key cities along the high-speed rail line into regional hubs and deploy new government facilities, institutions, corporate headquarters and innovative industries in central and southern Taiwan, former vice chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development Chang -Ching-sen (張景森) said.
The DPP will also be looking for possibilities to reshape the administrative areas to promote -better regional development, such as merging Hsinchu county and city as well Chiayi county and city, Chang said.
The Ma administration has always focused on development in northern Taiwan and intentionally blocks major projects in the south, Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) said.
“Yunlin County and Chiayi County represent the largest source of agricultural produce in Taiwan, but we always feel like we are the bottom-ranked counties because we have not been treated fairly by the central government,” she said.
Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), a former Cabinet minister who is running for election in Greater Taichung, said central Taiwan “has been completely forgotten” by Ma and he proposed moving the legislature to Greater Taichung to “equalize” regional disparities and shift the center of power away from the capital.