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Happiness, the Momentum for Taipei’s Progress

A yearbook not only provides information about what happened in the previous year, but also renders foresight for the future. This 2004 Taipei Yearbook sets out to break down the original framework of a compilation of administrative reports from Taipei City Government agencies and aims to present Taipei’s unique characteristics that are formed by the collective perspective of this city’s citizens. As a city develops, it is where the city’s core value is placed that decides its direction of progress.

According to a July 2004 report, issued by Global Views magazine( 遠見雜誌) , Taipei is the most competitive city in Taiwan, ranking first in economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and technology development. On a larger scale, Taipei’s competitiveness, surmounting Paris and Shanghai, is ranked eleventh in the world, and third in Asia, by the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2004 City Competitiveness Report. Moreover, according to a survey report issued by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) of the World Teleport Association (WTA), Taipei, along with New York and Singapore, is included among the world’s Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2003.

The above accomplishments are no doubt a great encouragement for the city government, since we aim to build Taipei into a world-class city. Yet as the mayor of this capital city, I am more drawn to the fact that, in 2004, Taipei citizens’ average life expectancy reached 79 years, exceeding that of the country’s 76 years and Kaohsiung City’s 75 years, lagging only slightly behind Japan, which is famed world-wide for its population's longevity. In addition, according to Common Wealth magazine’s( 天下雜誌) survey on the happiness level of people living in Taiwan’s 25 counties and cities, Taipei citizens’ feeling of happiness is the highest in Taiwan. Happiness, to me, provides the final impetus for a city’s development.

Taipei’s magical charm and Taipei citizens’ happiness do not come about without reason. Taipei’s multi-cultural population is an advantage, along with the city’s ample educational and medical resources, booming enterprises, convenient transportation, leading information sources as well as abundant and diverse cultural activities. While confronting a declining budget, the city government strives to do more, such as upgrading its medical services quality by unprecedented medical reform and better medical systems coordination; enhancing the city’s landscape by renovating old communities; promoting featured streets that have stores of similar nature; and initiating the street furniture project to better furnish Taipei’s public environment.

The implementation of garbage classification and recycling has reduced the amount of garbage by 53%. In addition, we are transforming Taipei into a most livable and sustainable city by installing more community exercise facilities and fitness centers, improving access for disabled persons, and senior citizens extending subway lines, protecting historical sites and growing the cultural industry as well as building-up the publishing industry and increasing the number of libraries. Historically, Taipei has never been a city belonging only to Taipei citizens. Diverse ethnicities and migrants, from other cities and counties, have made Taipei significantly accommodating and its citizens broad-minded. The things that have made Taipei a more friendly city include: teaching Taiwanese dialects in elementary schools, promoting Hakka and indigenous culture, developing bilingual signage and establishing service centers for foreign brides, who marry Taiwanese men and reside in Taipei. Taipei citizens are fully willing and quite used to accepting new ideas as well as the impact and challenges they bring. Moreover, they are good at integrating things foreign and native to bring about a third element. Diversity and open-mindedness are exactly the characteristics that describe Taipei and its citizens.

In the past six years, the city government has been able to enhance citizens’ awareness of information technology (IT), bridge the digital divide and create a favorable environment for IT development by constructing needed infrastructure, promoting electronic processing of government tasks and offering free internet courses to citizens. With 88% of its households having computers and 84% of its citizens using the Internet, Taipei is now a highly developed e-society that has realized the ideal of “frequent the net and free up the roads.” By the middle of 2006, when a city-wide, wireless broadband network is completed, Taipei will emerge as the world’s fi rst “Wireless City.”

As for business development, the revenues generated by Nangang Software Park and Neihu Technology Park have exceeded NT$1 trillion. After the completion of the Shilin-Beitou Technology Park, the three Parks will connect to form the “Taipei Technology Corridor” and will, altogether, make Taipei a key figure in global IT industry.While the city continues to develop at a steady pace, I feel strongly that physical engineering can only make a city larger; it is culture that makes a city greater. When Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004, instead of putting on vainglorious and luxurious performances, it demonstrated absolute confidence in its culture by properly incorporating Greek mythology and Aegean civilization into the opening and closing ceremonies. She earned attention and praise from around the world. Taipei needs not only modernization, but also history. And by history, I mean more than happenings in the past; more important is the cultural legacy that we are to leave behind to future generations of Taipei and the world. Taipei was constructed more than 120 years ago. It has received varied multi-cultural impact from the East and the West. There is enough fertile soil to cultivate Taipei’s cultural seedlings – a renaissance epoch is about to unravel.

This Yearbook marks the progress in which we take pride and reflects the experience from which we can learn, and I sincerely dedicate it to each citizen of Taipei.

Ying-jeou Ma, S. J. D.
July 2005