Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ko agrees with minister, debt not a priority

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, right, scrutinizes a bottle of water at an event in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said he agrees with Minister of Finance Su Jain-rong (蘇建榮), who on Saturday said that Taipei should not view repaying government debts as a priority and should invest in more development projects.

Su, who was Taipei Department of Finance commissioner when Ko became mayor in 2014, made the remark in an interview with the Central News Agency.

Su said that when he was commissioner — considering Ko had just stepped into the job and there were no major development projects planned at the time — he had suggested repaying more government debt to reduce interest payments and increase future debt capacity.

However, as Taipei’s fiscal capacity stands now, it should not view repaying government debt as its first priority, and should invest in more construction and infrastructure development projects, he said.

When a city has poor fiscal capacity, government debts is a big problem, but when a city’s financial situation is sound, development should be prioritized before repaying debt, he added.

When asked about Su’s comments, Ko said he did not expand public expenditure when he had just taken up the post in 2014, because the city government’s budget implementation rate was only about 66 percent, which meant poor implementation efficiency.

“Expanding expenditure at the time would have resulted in a huge waste of money,” he said, adding that he agrees with Su’s theory.

Budget implementation efficiency grew to 74 percent after enforcing a lean management approach in the city government, and rose to 81 percent after the bad habit of not using unexpended balances properly was stopped, Ko said.

“After two to three years of enforcing lean management in Taipei, the city government’s efficiency has improved, so we will gradually expand public expenditure,” he said.

Separately, in a meeting last Thursday Ko spoke to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) about the Ministry of Culture’s slow progress in establishing two museums, and said the city government hoped that the ministry would assist with plans for Taipei Dome evacuation routes.

The ministry on Friday issued a statement that said his remarks deviated from the truth.

When asked about this, Ko yesterday said that meetings with the ministry should be open to the media, so that the public can see “who is obstructing the other.”

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