Sat, Nov 01, 2014 - Page 3 News List

2014 ELECTIONS: Interview: KMT’s Chien says Pingtung County needs his skills

By Lee Li-fa and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Entrusted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to return Pingtung County to KMT rule, the party’s Pingtung county commissioner candidate, Minister Without Portfolio Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎), said his campaign seeks to use his personal qualities rather than his party affiliations to woo voters in the county, a pan-green stronghold.

Touting his considerable experience, ranging from working as the most basic civil servant to having once served as deputy interior minister, as well as having once been elected as representative to the now defunct National Assembly, Chien said he was very familiar with the administrative side of government.

Chien said that in the 17 years the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has ruled in Pingtung, the total population has dropped from 913,000 in 1997 to 852,000 last year.

The unemployment rate among youths between the ages of 15 to 29 has climbed from 5.5 percent in 1997 to 12 percent last year, roughly 2.5 percent higher than the national average, Chien said in a recent interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).

The county’s population of elderly has reached 13.54 percent, a whole 2 percent higher than the national average, as the younger generation moves elsewhere to find jobs, while the elderly slowly start to form the majority of the population, he said.

The county’s finances have also slumped in the past 17 years, with debt rising from NT$4.4 billion (US$145 million) in 1997 to NT$26.4 billion last year, Chien said, adding that the figures meant the average county resident is NT$31,000 in debt.

“The county is very close to its debt ceiling and is one of the poorest counties in the nation,” Chien said. “Such is the fruits that DPP governance has borne for us.”

Addressing the issue of the county’s decreasing population of young people, Chien said there were not enough jobs in the county and that a lack of developed industry directly contributes to young people wanting to leave.

“The primary thing is to make Pingtung viable for industries to invest in, and to do so one must first look to making transportation easy and quick, which is why the county needs to convince the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC) and the Taiwan High Speed Rail to extend their services to the area,” Chien said.

In addition to having the Kaohsiung MRT system and the high-speed rail extended to Pingtung, there must also be a secondary East-West expressway linking Pingtung to Greater Kaohsiung, he added.

“There are those who say Pingtung cannot hope to ever produce the amount of passengers needed for the MRT and high-speed rail to become viable in the county, and that my slogans are merely a means of gaining more votes,” Chien said.

However, he added that if Keelung is in negotiations to have high-speed rail services extended northward from Taipei, Pingtung with its bigger population would be more than qualified to receive such service.

An extension of the MRT and high-speed rail systems to Pingtung would change residents’ habit of going to work or school in Greater Kaohsiung, Chien said, adding that to a certain extent it would also affect the buying habits of county residents.

Kaohsiung and Pingtung have always shared a daily living cycle, and “we simply must have the MRT extended to Pingtung” he said.

“For the past 17 years, the county had been governed by people not familiar with the administrative side of governance. It is time that the county is overseen by a professional administrator,” Chien said.

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