Fri, Aug 11, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Infrastructure plan just ‘pork-barrel’ spending: academics

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

From left to right, former Examination Yuan secretary-general Lin Shui-chi, Tamkang University professor Lee Wo-chiang, National Competitiveness Forum chief executive Hsieh Ming-hui, Taiwan Competitiveness Forum director-general Pang Chien-kuo and National Open University professor Jack Lee attend a news conference organized by the forum in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Peng Wang-hsin, Taipei Times

Allocation of Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program funds was yesterday panned by academics affiliated with a pan-blue think tank, who called for revisions to remedy wasteful, pork-barrel spending.

“The distribution of funds provides clear evidence that this is completely a pork-barrel scheme,” National Competitiveness Forum chief executive Hsieh Ming-hui (謝明輝) said, adding that areas controlled by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were allocated 84 percent of the original budget for local projects, compared with only 8 percent for areas controlled by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Kaohsiung, the greatest beneficiary, was allocated almost 25 percent of the funds, compared with only 3 percent for New Taipei City, which received the greatest proportion of funds among KMT-controlled areas, he said.

Following a landslide victory in the nine-in-one local elections in November 2014, the DPP controls 13 of the nation’s 22 local governments, including every major city except for New Taipei City and Taipei.

Tamkang University professor of banking and finance Lee Wo-chiang (李沃牆) said the plans lacked truly “forward-looking” ideas and instead focused on traditional infrastructure projects, such as light rail systems, which comprise about half of the budgeted funds.

“Everyone knows that we are short on water, electricity and skilled workers. Are more rail lines what we really need?” Lee said. “Right now we are facing the consequences of an aging population following years of a low birth rate, and accompanying social welfare and long-term care spending are already straining our finances. Borrowing funds for the Forward-looking program will only make the situation worse.”

National Open University professor of public administration Jack Lee (李允傑) called for the budgeting of funds to be halted for projects that have yet to undergo a feasibility assessment, saying that such projects should also be revised to link to a soon-to-be-announced national land use plan.

The National Spatial Planning Act (國土計畫法) passed last year mandates that an overarching plan for national land usage be implemented next year.

The Construction and Planning Agency plans to hold exhibitions, presentations and review meetings over the next several months, Jack Lee said, adding that new land use regulations are expected to recognize national conservation zones and could potentially provide environmental groups a new tool to block approval of development projects.

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