The Executive Yuan yesterday approved the merger of Tainan County and Tainan City as a single municipality with the Cabinet saying this would drive the development of Chiayi County and Yunlin County.
“[A merged] Tainan City has a double role to play. It is an integral part of one of the three big urban communities [in the country] and it can propel Yunlin County and Chiayi forward,” said Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), Minister of the Research, Development and Evaluation (RDEC) Commission.
Jiang made the remarks at a press conference after a meeting called by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday.
A commission of 10 officials and 15 academics was divided on the application at the first stage review last Tuesday, with eight members expressing support, six voicing opposition, four undecided and the remaining six failing to give an opinion.
Among the reasons against the proposal were that the population of 1.87 million in a merged Tainan County and Tainan City was less than the preferred threshold of 2 million, while a national poll found that 43.8 percent of the public were not in support of the merger and upgrade, higher than the 34.3 percent holding the opposite view.
In early April, the legislature passed an amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) allowing cities and counties to integrate into special municipalities, paving the way for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to deliver on his campaign promise of remapping the country into three metropolises and 15 counties and cities.
Eleven out of a total of 23 counties and cities applied to upgrade their status either alone or by merging with others.
Liu finalized the review results at yesterday’s meeting.
Aside from the Tainan proposal, Liu also endorsed the initial review last Tuesday — approving the upgrade of Taipei County to a municipal city and the mergers of Taichung County and Taichung City as well as Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County into municipalities, while rejecting proposals by Taoyuan County and Changhua County to be upgraded to municipalities and by Yunlin County and Chiayi County to merged into a municipality.
After the revision becomes effective next year, within 10 days of local elections in special municipalities, the current administrative borders of two special municipalities and 23 counties and cities will be redrawn into five special municipalities and 17 counties and cities.
Jiang said the redrawing of administrative districts was in line with the spirit of Ma’s plan to remap the country.
He said that the adjustment of the administrative zones could help formulate three big urban communities in northern, central, and southern Taiwan and reduce regional disparities.
“The meaning of President Ma’s ‘three metropolises and 15 counties plan’ lies in enhancing the country’s overall competitiveness and pursuing balance in regional development. How many special municipalities and counties or cities the country has after districts are remapped is not the point,” Jiang said.
The government developed the country into seven regions with each having at least one special municipality or quasi-special municipality as locomotives for development — Taipei City, Taipei County, Keelung City, and Yilan County; Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County, Hsinchu City, and Miaoli County; a merged Taichung County and City, Changhua County, and Nantou County; a merged Tainan County and Tainan City, Chiayi County, and Yunlin County; a merged Kaohsiung County and City and Pingtung County; Hualien County and Taitung County; and the islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
Jiang said the government would use policy tools to encourage the counties and cities within a region to cooperate to promote overall development.
Minister of Finance Lee Sush- der (李述德) said the government would revise the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) to ensure that each county or city, regardless of its status, obtained a bigger budget than now.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the party welcomed the Tainan merger, but urged the government to propose an amendment to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures and the Administrative Division Law (行政區域劃分法) as soon as possible to equalize counties, cities with new municipal cities.
The party would swiftly come up with candidates and campaigns for the elections, and treat them as the first battle ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he said.
Tainan Mayor Hsu Tien-tsai (?]) said he was happy to hear about the merger, adding that it would benefit development.
As the former capital of Taiwan, Hsu said people in Tainan were prepared to make it into a beautiful old city like Kyoto.
DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德), the party’s nominee for Tainan mayor, yesterday said he was undecided whether he wanted the municipal city mayoral post. DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅), the DPP’s nominee for Tainan County commissioner said he was interested.
Former minister of foreign affairs and Presidential Office secretary-general Mark Chen (陳唐山), a DPP member who entered the Tainan County race despite the party overlooking him, said he would gauge public opinion before deciding whether to run.
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