Tsai’s costly plan is against the will of peo­ple

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Early this month, Tai­wan law­mak­ers ap­proved an in­fra­struc­ture stim­u­lus plan de­signed to boost de­mand and thus the is­land’s econ­omy. The “proac­tive” stim­u­lus plan, which the Tsai Ing-wen ad­min­is­tra­tion had said in March would in­volve 880 bil­lion New Tai­wan dol­lars ($29 bil­lion) and be spread over eight years, ended up with only half the orig­i­nally planned in­vest­ment and du­ra­tion.

The com­pro­mise was made af­ter law­mak­ers from both the rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party and op­po­si­tion par­ties such as Kuom­intang crit­i­cized the orig­i­nal ver­sion as back­door deal­ing and poor plan­ning. The project could be ex­tended af­ter four years through leg- isla­tive ap­proval.

De­spite con­ces­sions, even some DPP politi­cians ques­tioned the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process and prospects of the four-year plan. Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je has dis­missed the plan as a waste of money, while some se­nior econ­o­mists say they fail to see any­thing “proac­tive” or fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble in the plan, which ex­plains why Tsai had to re­duce its in­vest­ment and du­ra­tion to half.

Pro­posed just six months ago and al­tered sev­eral times on un­her­alded re­quests, Tsai’s “grand” plan has come into ef­fect with­out so­lic­it­ing enough pub­lic opin­ions. Worse, the dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sources is ap­par­ently in fa­vor of the re­gions that sup­port the DPP, fu­el­ing con­cerns that the plan is aimed at re­ward­ing die-hard DPP sup­port­ers.

And al­though the plan is de­signed to tar­get rail­ways, water re­sources, green en­ergy and the dig­i­tal econ­omy, it suf­fers from a lack of fore­sight. Projects such as im­prov­ing streetscapes, man­ag­ing ve­hi­cle park­ing and fix­ing sewer sys­tems have been put on the list of ma­jor con­struc­tion projects, and Tsai has sought to in­vest more than 400 bil­lion NT dol­lars in rail­way con­struc­tion, which has a mea­ger 6.4 per­cent sup­port rate ac­cord­ing to a June sur­vey.

No won­der peo­ple are ques­tion­ing why Tsai is pro­ceed­ing with the costly in­fra­struc­ture plan against the will of many peo­ple and politi­cians.

As a DPP politi­cian, Tsai of­ten ques­tioned the crossS­traits agree­ments on goods and ser­vice trade en­dorsed by her pre­de­ces­sor Ma Ying-jeou, and said they were a re­sult of be­hind-the-scene ne­go­ti­a­tions. The “proac­tive” plan she has mus­cled through the legis- la­ture af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice in May, how­ever, shows her dou­ble stan­dard pol­icy.

There is enough rea­son to ques­tion whether the hu­mon­gous in­fra­struc­ture plan will work, be­cause, among other things, it will not be funded by gov­ern­ment funds but by bor­row­ing debts. Over-in­debt­ed­ness may not only cause de­lays in con­struc­tion and lead to a waste of re­sources, but also im­pose ex­tra bur­den on the next ad­min­is­tra­tion. The am­bi­tious plan risks go­ing down the drain should Tsai fail to heed lessons from the aborted ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects over the past two decades.

... even some DPP politi­cians ques­tioned the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process and prospects of the four-year plan.

The au­thor is a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences.

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