Taipei City councilors from across party lines yesterday questioned the city government over its spending on several international events including the 2017 Summer Universiade and 2016’s World Design Capital program, urging it to cut back its annual expenditure.
The city government has listed a budget of NT$20 billion (US$685.5 million) for the hosting of the Universiade — an international sports event for university students — including NT$100 million for promotional activities, NT$2 billion for the establishment of a new basketball stadium and NT$600 million to provide for the living expenses for about 12,000 participating athletes.
The overall budget for the city’s hosting of the 2016 World Design Capital (WDC), on the other hand, has now reached a total of NT$290 million.
The budget plans for the international activities were presented yesterday to the Taipei City Council as part of the general budget listed for next year, sparking concerns about the city’s huge investment in large-scale activities instead of local construction projects.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Ho Chi-wei (何志偉) challenged Taipei City’s Department of Sports over the NT$600 million it has listed for the living expenses of the athletes who are to participate in the Summer Universiade, and criticized the department for providing subsidies to foreign athletes while the nation is suffering economically.
“The budget is used to compensate participating athletes for their food, transportation and even sightseeing expenses. The subsidy plan is more generous than previous cities hosting event offered and it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said during a question-and-answer session at Taipei City Council.
Ho Chin-liang (何金樑), commissioner of the department, insisted that the subsidy plan had been drafted in accordance with international procedures. The department also referred to the 2011 Summer Universiade budget when it was hosted by South Korea.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) and DPP Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) also questioned Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) about the city’s drive to claim the title for the World Design Capital 2016 and said the city should not waste any more money participating in international activities.
Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs has divided the WDC budget between various departments for projects that aim to improve the city’s landscape and image.
Wang cited the Department of Environmental Protection’s NT$40 million budget to design new uniforms for street cleaners and said most of the projects were redundant and unnecessary.
Defending the city’s enthusiasm for hosting international sports events and participating in international activities, Hau said the city aimed to boost its international reputation via the events, while promising to examine the budgetary plans to avoid overspending.
“We will examine our budget plans thoroughly and make the necessary adjustments to avoid any waste of money,” he said.