Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ko announces Taipei has left NT$100bn debt club

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, center, wearing white, participates in a parade starting at Qu Yuan Temple in Taipei’s Beitou District and ending at Zhoumei Pier, also in Beitou, to ask the gods for an auspicious Dragon Boat Festival, which is on June 18 this year.

Photo: CNA

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) announced on Facebook and Instagram that the city’s debt has dropped below NT$100 billion (US$3.35 billion), marking the highest rate of debt repayment by a local government in Taiwan.

Ko posted on both online platforms, along with a photograph of him sitting at his desk on Friday reading official documents and the quote: “All we did was work hard every day. Do what should be done and avoid what shouldn’t be done, and a lot of money will remain at the end of the year.”

“Today, the Taipei City Government has officially left the NT$100 billion debt club,” he wrote.

Taipei had NT$146.8 billion in debt when he took office, Ko said, but about NT$52 billion was repaid over the past three-and-a-half years, reducing the debt to about NT$94.8 billion — a reduction per capita from about NT$54,000 to NT$35,000.

The total amount repaid could reach NT$54 billion if city revenue continues to increase this year, he added.

Requests for supplementary funds became rare after Ko required all proposals to be reported to his office, while the amount spent on last year’s Summer Universiade opening and closing ceremonies was about NT$360 million, less than the NT$540 million spent on holding the 2009 Summer Deaflympics, he said.

Enforcing stricter financial discipline has increased efficiency, solved the problem of trying to use up budgets and freed up additional finances for new projects, Ko said, adding that the Taipei Department of Finance told him that repaying NT$52 billion in four years sets a new record among local government heads.

“The changes that we are making now will affect future generations. A responsible government should not leave debt for future generations — this is the belief that the Taipei Government has held on to for four years,” he wrote.

The post in one day gained more than 300,000 likes on Facebook and 40,000 likes on Instagram.

Ko’s claims were over-embellished, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral candidate Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said on Friday, adding that Ko had used money budgeted for important public infrastructure to repay debt, thus hurting the city’s competitiveness.

The city government led by former Taipei mayor Hau Long-bin (郝龍斌) handed over a surplus of about NT$23.1 billion, Ting said.

Taipei residents contributed to the debt repayments, Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) of the Democratic Progressive Party wrote on his Facebook page.

As the law stipulates that city governments must use at least 5 percent of tax revenue to repay debt, Ko is simply confusing the public and claiming the credit, Wang added.

Asked about these responses, Ko yesterday said financial discipline at local governments has been really poor — including the habit of often asking for supplementary funds and trying to use up budgeted funds at the end of the year, practices that should be thoroughly reviewed.

He added that he would ask the Taipei Department of Finance to issue a press release that answers the councilors’ questions.

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