Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said the capital needs NT$7.6 billion (US$250 million) to build public infrastructure at a legislative hearing on the Cabinet’s “Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project.”
The hearing, which focused on urban and rural construction, was presided over by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) and attended by legislators, county commissioners and mayors.
The Cabinet has proposed setting aside NT$137.2 billion from the project’s budget of NT$890 billion for urban and rural construction projects throughout the nation.
Taipei has a well-developed healthcare system, making it the most suitable candidate for the funds earmarked for the project, Ko said.
Ko said that while he supports the project, the central government should more effectively distribute the funds.
“I know that many cities and counties came here looking to ‘grab money,’” Ko said. “Taipei is best-poised to carry out the ‘Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project’ as we do not set unrealistic goals or submit a barrage of budget requests.”
He said that Taipei wants only NT$7.6 billion of the budget to bolster efforts to expand the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, to maintain historically valuable buildings, build a biotechnology cluster in Nangang District (南港), to implement the “long-term care services program 2.0” and to create a “smart” underground pipeline management system.
Using the long-term care initiative as an example, Ko said that many of Taipei’s infrastructure projects do not just benefit the city, but the entire nation.
Taipei, with its well-developed healthcare system, is most likely to attain success in long-term care services, and the model it creates could be copied by other cities and counties, he said.
Similarly, works on display at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum are not only limited to Taipei artists, but artists nationwide, he said, while talking about a lack of exhibition space at the museum.
Taipei has the highest concentration — about one-fourth — of historic buildings in the nation and, if granted funds, the city government plans to use them to manage the capital’s historic buildings, which often are either illegally burned down by developers coveting the land on which they are located or integrated with coffee shops or restaurants to make a profit, Ko said.
Taipei plans to build a research and development center for biotechnology firms in Nangang that would play an important role in the nation’s industrial development, Ko said, adding that he hopes legislators would help Taipei lobby for central government funds for its construction.
Taipei residents often complain about the “perenial” road excavations scattered across the city, Ko said.
This is because agencies do not know where the underground pipelines have been laid, he said.
The city began mapping underground pipelines in 2015, but since the project is still in its early stages it requires more funds, Ko said.
Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) said on the sidelines of the hearing that Taipei is blessed with the largest budget among all administrative regions and “does not need the money.”
“If Mayor Ko has not fully understood how to use Taipei’s resources, he can learn how to do so by visiting Hualien,” said Fu, who is considering running for Taipei mayor next year.