A four-year plan by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to transform Taiwan into a sports-friendly country with 50 sports centers across the nation recently came under fire from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators, who said it was seriously behind schedule.
In 2010, the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) — which is set to be downgraded to a department under the Ministry of Education tomorrow — allocated NT$13.26 billion (US$455.1 million) to subsidize local governments in two phases to construct sports centers, each of which was to be given a maximum of NT$200 million.
In the first phase, subsidies are to be used for preparatory works — planning, designing, conducting feasibility studies and soliciting business for the planned sports stadiums. The second-phase subsidies are to mainly cover the construction costs of such establishments.
However, with only one year left before the project’s deadline at the end of this year, the Ma administration had only constructed 27 centers — about half of its goal — as of last year.
DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) said that while an expectant mother would take about nine months to deliver a baby, it would be next to impossible for the Ma administration, which has repeatedly failed to fulfill its promises, to meet its objective in one year.
“I am afraid that the Ma administration is destined to become, once again, a Pinocchio whose nose grows longer with each lie he tells,” Hsueh said.
An assessment report recently compiled by the National Audit Office singled out a few planned centers where the population number has fallen, saying they are overly optimistic about their future performance or haven fallen behind their construction schedule, Hsueh said.
“Those costly sporting stadiums may risk becoming more ‘mosquito-breeding sites’ around the country once their construction is completed,” Hsueh added.
According to council regulations, a sports center must be located in an area where the population exceeds 10,000, or which sees more than 150,000 people in its extended service region within a 10km radius from the center.
DPP Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) accused the central government of shirking its responsibility and said it should have talked to local governments upon detecting problems with finishing the project, instead of setting them aside until the last minute and then blaming the local governments for the delay.
Hsu was refereeing to a progress report on the project by the council during a joint meeting of the legislature’s Finance Committee and Education and Culture Committee in early November.
The report attributed the project’s possible delays to several local governments, saying some of them have shown less willingness to build sports centers due to a difficulty in finding a suitable location in metropolitan areas for the establishments.
It also cited requests by a few local governments to increase the budget to up to NT$400 million per stadium.
Questioning the NT$200 million budget cap for each planned sports center, DPP Taipei City Councilor Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) said that of the 12 sports centers built in Taipei’s 12 administrative districts, the one with the lowest construction costs was the Beitou (北投) Sports Center, which still spent about NT$288 million.
“The Neihu (內湖) Sports Center’s NT$712 million construction cost is the highest among the sports centers in the city,” Wu said.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) accused the Ma administration of class discrimination and unequal allocation of resources between urban and rural areas.
Citing as an example a sports stadium in Greater Tainan’s Sin-ying District (新營), Yeh said that the indoor basketball court of the center suffered from a leaking roof and damaged flooring, but the district had a hard time trying to obtain a budget of only hundreds of thousands of New Taiwan dollars for maintenance from the central government.