The central government’s repeated highlighting of Greater Kaohsiung as the city with the highest debts was unfair and likely politically motivated, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday.
“We suspect that the government and the media have intentionally emphasized Kaohsiung’s debts to shift the focus from the central government’s skyrocketing debts,” DPP Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), who represents a Kaohsiung constituency, told a press conference.
Media cited government data and reported that the southern port city has ranked first among all local governments for six consecutive months both for total public debt of NT$223.7 billion (US$7.69 billion) and per capita debt of NT$80,600.
DPP legislators Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) and Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑), who also come from Greater Kaohsiung, all said that the numbers did not tell the whole story, saying that Kaohsiung’s debt was incurred because of “structural reasons.”
One of the reasons was that the central government has cut money from the Tax Redistribution Fund to the city since Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County were merged into Greater Kaohsiung in 2010, Chiu said, adding that the fund was slashed by about NT$30 billion last year and this year.
Another reason was unfair disparities between the central government’s respective subsidies for Taipei and Greater Kaohsiung for health insurance and labor insurance, despite both being special municipalities, he said.
Kaohsiung received NT$2.2 billion in insurance subsidies between 2010 and this year, which was only about 13 percent of the NT$17.3 billion that Taipei has received, Chiu said.
Besides the unfairness, Chao said that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration had resorted to political maneuvers, including the central government’s repeated highlighting of the debt clock and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus’ slashing of the Kaohsiung City council’s budget.
“In my book, this has been an obvious politically motivated maneuver intended to hinder infrastructure projects and development in Kaohsiung. The central government should treat Kaohsiung the same way it treats Taipei,” Chao said.
The Legislative Yuan’s Budget Center has said in its reports that Greater Kaohsiung’s increasing public debt was “a direct result of the merger of the two administrative zones,” Lee said.
The central government’s debt has now surpassed NT$5 trillion and could reach NT$22 trillion if hidden debts were counted, Lee added, calling for “the central government to stop playing the numbers game and try to cover its own debt problem.”