Sat, May 20, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Inauguration Anniversary: INTERVIEW: Tsai emphasizes infrastructure development

Today marks the first anniversary of President Tsai Ing-wen taking office. In an exclusive interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporter Tzou Jiing-wen on Sunday, Tsai reflected on initiating reforms in the first year of her administration and set objectives for the coming year: moving forward with construction and striving for effective policy implementation. This is the second part of the interview

President Tsai Ing-wen gestures during an interview on Sunday in Taipei.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): What is the significance of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program for the nation? What are your thoughts on the differing opinions regarding the railway construction section of the plan?

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文):Infrastructure construction must be pursued without delay. Generally speaking, the speed at which Taiwan is building its infrastructure is falling behind that of others.

Our nation has not planned infrastructure projects of significant scale for a long time, which has caused the lack of a sturdy foundation with which to push for next-stage development.

For example, with insufficient infrastructure for the Internet, development of the digital industry would of course suffer; the lack of railway infrastructure inconveniences tourists and directly contributes to the unwillingness of young people to settle down in certain places, thus causing further imbalance between rural and urban development.

Furthermore, the infrastructure plan might stimulate domestic demand, and provide the opportunity for local industries and governments to train personnel, making them more competitive through involvement with the planning and execution of the plans.

The project is not putting the nation into a deficit; it is an investment for the future.

In terms of railway construction, we must not only emphasize the environmental protection values espoused by “green” travel, but also the convenience, safety and fairness of travel in local areas.

We have clear-cut goals, the first of which is to establish an nationwide railway network.

We are prioritizing the electrification of two railways in particular, the Chaojhou-Taitung section of the South Link Line (南迴鐵路) and the railway connecting the northern and eastern regions, the construction at which is being expedited.

The electrification project for the Huadong Line is also in urgent need of an upgrade.

In terms of balancing regional development — especially of central Taiwan, which has formed its own regional entity — we have planned the construction of a circle line for the Taichung MRT system.

The line will not be constructed all at once, but with the gradual linking of local networks, those living in central Taiwan will be able to quickly travel between urban centers.

For example, the extension of the green line for Taichung’s planned MRT from Wurih District (烏日) to Changhua will help link the urban centers of those two cities.

It will not only make travel more convenient for Changhua residents, but will also be of great assistance to regional development.

Thirdly, railway construction must consider the needs of urban development in key metropolises.

For example, the elevation of railways in Chiayi would allow the city government to retain more land for development, while in urban centers such as Kaohsiung, the networked railways will provide better service and allow the city to transition to a different focus.

In terms of the rapidly growing Taoyuan and Hsinchu, the construction of railways — whether MRT or light-rail — is important for development.

LT: What are your thoughts on Taiwan being unable to join the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year due to pressure from China? How will the relationship with China develop?

Tsai:I feel that WHO Director-General [Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍)] is giving the wrong example. The WHO is the entire world’s WHO, not China’s. It serves the health interests of all of humankind, not the interests of a particular political entity.

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