The war of words over the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Kong-Rey in southern parts of the country last week continued yesterday, with the two main political parties, local and central governments criticizing each other’s flood prevention efforts.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Minister of the Interior Lee Hung-yuan (李鴻源) accused local governments of negligence in their preparations, with Ma saying on Wednesday at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting that local governments’ annual budget allocation for sewer system construction was “horrible.”
Lee has blasted local governments in the past week for their “slow response” to the flooding, saying that asking for a bigger flood-prevention budget would not resolve the problem.
Political observers suspect that those comments were directed at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as the cities and counties that suffered the most from flooding — Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung, as well as Yunlin, Chiayi and Pingtung counties — are all governed by the DPP.
Citing past achievements in flood prevention during the DPP administration, including an eight-year, NT$80 billion (US$2.7 billion) project, the DPP fired back at the KMT yesterday, reiterating that a proposed six-year, NT$60 billion follow-up project would be necessary and that the Ma administration has only been offering lip service and relegating responsibility to local governments.
A six-year, NT$63.5 billion budget proposal by the Ministry of Economic Affairs was rejected by Ma on Wednesday, the third time the proposal had been sent back, DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) told a news conference yesterday.
The project would be essential for keeping residents in central and southern Taiwan free from threat of flooding, Lin said, adding that about NT$160 billion was spent on flood-prevention construction in the Greater Taipei area and Ma should not ignore the needs of those who live outside Taipei.
Ma’s comments on the sewer system also showed that he was “horrible” at national affairs because its construction was coordinated by the central government, Lin said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) rebutted accusations by local governments that his knowledge of flood prevention was lacking and urged local officials to refrain from using emotional language and put more effort into building storm drain systems in urban areas.
Hsiao made the remarks during a press conference at the ministry while responding to strong criticisms made during the KMT committee meeting on Wednesday after he said that Nantou, Taitung, Yunlin, Chiayi, and Pingtung counties had all failed to build effective underground storm drainage, possibly contributing to floods in urban areas following recent heavy rainfall.
Reacting to Hsiao’s criticism, Taitung County Public Work Bureau director Hsu Jui-kui (許瑞貴) called Hsiao “idiotic” and accused him of “misleading Ma,” adding that Hsiao should “jump into the ocean.”
“It wouldn’t help to solve the problem if I jump into the ocean, it may make it worse because the sea level may go up,” Hsiao told reporters. “Emotional language doesn’t help, the point is that local governments should expend more effort in completing underground storm drain systems in urban areas.”