Power should be devolved to local governments to better develop regional areas, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said through his daughter Annie Lee (李安妮) yesterday.
The former president said local governments should band together and ask the central government for more power and financial resources.
The 90-year-old had been slated to appear at the Healthy Local Development and Management seminar hosted by his Lee Teng-hui Foundation, buy was hospitalized due to pneumonia and his daughter appeared on his behalf with a draft of his intended speech.
Lee Teng-hui said that since he underwent surgery for colorectal cancer, he had been thinking of two things — the first was that no matter who won the presidential election, they would be faced with the nation’s financial difficulties and the second was the direction of Taiwan’s political reforms.
He said democracy had flourished over the past decade, but development of local governments had not benefited, adding that in terms of functionality, local government was unhealthy.
Lee Teng-hui said this thought prompted him to tour the nation after the surgery, adding that he had discovered many problems that plagued local governments in their development of their areas.
He said that everywhere he went, he only heard about disappointment in the government and the nation’s development.
Saying that the central government in the past had kept the majority of resources at its disposal in order to facilitate an eventual attack on China, Lee Teng-hui said it caused local governments to become bereft of sustainable sources of finance, starved of governmental funds due to the inequity of distribution of tax income and unable to develop localized industry.
Almost half of the local governments across the nation were unable to afford personnel wages on their own, Lee Teng-hui said.
He added that originally the nation only had two special municipalities, namely Taipei and Kaohsiung, which increased to five — New Taipei City (新北市), Greater Tainan and Greater Taichung — with a sixth to follow: Taoyuan County.
He added that the new special municipalities, along with an emphasis on developing northern Taiwan and urban areas, had led to an unequal development across the country and an increasingly large gap between urban and rural development.
Lee Teng-hui added that he hoped the seminar could pool ideas on a direction for the government to solve problems concerning national development.