Creating Taipei City With People of Wealth
2012 was a year full of challenges. Impacted by the European debt crisis, the economy in Taiwan went into stagnation and the outlook was gloomy as if it would hit rock bottom. Moreover, labor confrontations between employers and employees were more frequent. Employees worried about losing their jobs or being paid low wages, whereas employers worried about their businesses and cash flow. The two sides were actually in the same boat worrying about the same thing: Is this boat going to sink? This made me contemplate the situation because all these controversies were symptomatic of the collective anxiety in the current Taiwanese society. Everyone was inflicted by the bleakness of the future. Indeed, Taiwan was confronted with a big challenge, which, however, would appear less intimidating if it were compared with the diplomatic crisis in 1973. By then, in addition to the collective impact of global finance, soaring food prices, and the first oil crisis, we were forced to withdraw from the United Nations.
The economic crisis notwithstanding, the diplomatic challenge was a huge blow to the confidence of the people of Taiwan in terms of the survival of the country. Under the circumstances, the government decisively launched the program Ten Major Construction Projects, which as of today we are still so familiar with. Those projects did not come about without controversies; however, the government was very resolute in its execution of these projects. So when we look back, we cannot help but admire Chiang Ching-kuo, Sun Yun-suan, and Li Kwoh-ting, visionaries who fundamentally transformed the infrastructure and industries in one of the darkest moments in Taiwan’s history, be it the domestic economy or diplomatic setbacks. More importantly, they created visions for the people who were losing hope; they united people and helped revitalize Taiwan to become the first of the Four Asian Dragons.
That is our paradigm. What we face today includes an economic downturn, rising commodity prices, an increasing unemployment rate, and public resentment about the status quo, which has led to social unrest and loss of faith. From my point of view, the public sector has the responsibility to take immediate and concrete measures and map out the direction for future development to revive faith. Therefore, I am resolved to push forward the New Ten Major Construction Projects of Taipei. Among them, Taipei Twin Towers, Development of Taipei Songshan Airport, Taipei Metro Xinyi Line and Songshan Line, Fiber To The Home are four projects aimed to improve transportation infrastructure and service in Taipei. Moreover, the Taipei Cloud Computing Industrial Park, Taipei Akihabara (electronics and video game whole sale stores), the Taipei Performing Art Center, the Taipei Pop Music Center, Taipei Film, TV, and Music Industrial Park and Taipei Regional Pastures (construction of the second Hall of the Taipei World Trade Center) are the other six projects to be undertaken to create a sound environment for future industrial development and to increase business competitiveness.
The New Ten Major Construction Projects are mostly dependent on public investment but we also aim to encourage private investment and to create employment opportunities. What is more, these projects help to create a whole new vision for transportation and industry, the two major cornerstones of the development of economy. For instance, cloud computing technology is now all the rage on the island. However, years ago, the Taipei City Government had already taken actions to complete construction of its wireless broadband network. Furthermore, a fiber optic network had been built earlier along the city’s drainage systems, to deliver fiber optic services directly to the homes of every citizen in Taipei City within four years. With the fiber optic network in place, the cloud computing industry can readily take root and grow. The construction of Taipei Cloud Computing Industrial Park, which had been under active planning, was officially made public at a press conference in October 2012. The construction of the Park came about at industry’s request.
By collecting feedback on the needs of the industrial sector, the Government immediately made land available, bringing the notice to the public that the first Cloud Computing Industrial Park would be constructed. What followed was the construction project for the Taipei Film, TV, and Music Industrial Park. The New Ten Major Construction Projects of Taipei is a major investment by the TCG in the upcoming five to ten years. This is estimated to attract investment from the private sector to the amount of more than NT$370 billion, and create more than 57 thousand jobs. These are only rough figures. As a matter of fact, the launching of these Projects involves many moving parts. From the design and planning stage to the construction of the buildings, a great deal of capital and skills are required.
Such a vast undertaking will certainly create a spurt of growth in the surrounding neighborhoods and industries. Take the Taipei Metro, for example. It is difficult for us to imagine how the Nangang Software Park could come into existence without the Nangang Line, let alone the prosperity of today’s Nangang District. With the opening of the Xinyi and Songshan Line, districts such as Datong, Zhongshan, Songshan and Xinyi are expected to witness a more prosperous future.
Despite the limited budget for investment in these Projects, the Government aims to encourage more private participation so as to create a fivefold, or even tenfold, growth for the people. The development of every city is dependent on the targeting of an important goal, which ultimately serves to create a city of wealthy people. Therefore, to create wealth for Taipei citizens is the objective of the New Ten Major Construction Projects of Taipei.
I firmly believe that the resilience and innovative capacity of the City will take the lead in Taiwan to bounce back and head towards prosperity. I have great confidence in the future of the City because for the past few years, we have successfully hosted the 2009 Deaflympics and the 2010 International Flora Expo. We also helped Taiwan win the bid to host the 2017 Summer Universiade, which will be one of the largest-scale events ever held in the country. Furthermore, the opening of the international line of the Songshan Airport connects Taipei to other international cities in the world. We are on the right path ofrealizing the vision of a young and beautiful Taipei, leading Taiwanese society forward into the future.
Two years ago, the birthrate in Taiwan and Taipei City had dropped drastically, causing a great deal of concern. To cope, the TCG launched a birth stimulus program, “Have a Care-Free Pregnancy.“ In two years, the birthrate has increased from less than 20 thousand to more than 20.5 thousand, the highest number in nine years. The average age of fathers for the first time in a few years decreased. The immediate outcome of the program has led the central and other local governments to follow suit. In the future, the City Government will act promptly to implement a baby-sitting system in the community together with a family center and day care center so as to provide more assistance to young families.
In addition, we have made every effort to promote the Public Housing Policy. By learning from the management experience of the developed countries, we plan to provide high-quality rental housing to redress the stereotypical impression that public housing negatively impacts the living quality of a neighborhood. Also the policy is helping to rebuild the confidence of the public so that mainstream opinion may actively support the Government in creating public housing. Two years ago during my inauguration ceremony, I promised to start a public housing project by constructing 4800 public houses. So far the project has been on schedule and proceeded very successfully; even better, the number of completed public houses may be higher than the projected figure. In the long run, it will relieve the housing pressure in Metropolitan Taipei.
In terms of making Taipei a livable city, the TCG has implemented a series of environmental protection policies, including resource recycling, water resource management, air quality improvement, and YouBike (a public bike rental system). These have become objectives of emulation for other major international cities. Measures taken to revive the Tamsui River have improved the quality of the water, making it the best it has been in the past 30 years. The number of hydrophilic people is also rapidly increasing. Moreover, projects such as Arcade Pavement Leveling, Road Smoothing and Step Entrance Buses have been put into practice and implemented in an active and precise manner by the responsible teams at the TCG to create a barrier-free environment, one that is friendlier to seniors and the physically and mentally challenged.
A great city must be a place where citizens can live in their own home and enjoy their jobs. Major construction projects with definite goals can help boost the economy and improve the overall living environment. Hence, with good conditions in place, young people are willing to stay in the City and work here to build their dreams. These are the responsibilities that the City Government works to fulfill. A crisis can also be a turning point. When facing the economic crisis, we can take it in our stride. To retain the vitality of the City and create wealth and employment opportunities, we have to put all our efforts into action to bring the construction projects to completion. I am confident that through our efforts, the economic development of the City and those of the neighboring magistrates will take flight, the so-called locomotive effect. Furthermore, it will boost the vibrancy, innovativeness and competitiveness of the city. As long as we restore the Taiwanese Spirit, which is to be positive, enterprising and diligent in bravely encountering all challenges, a wonderful future is in our hands.
Lung-bin Hau, Ph.D