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The government needs to focus on comprehensive plans for national land use and the creation of special municipalities, instead of simply catering to the needs of special interest groups.
Over the past two days, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) attended inauguration ceremonies of tech facilities nationwide, including the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Cyber Security and Smart Technology R&D Building in Tainan, a planned science park in Kaohsiung’s Ciaotou District (橋頭) and a new building for software firms at the Hsinchu Science Park.
Technology is Taiwan’s security guarantee, and the nation’s high-tech research and development centers should be spread from the north to the south, making Taiwan the world’s biggest tech cluster, Tsai said on Friday.
Meanwhile, Tsai, who is also chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has urged her party to support caucus whip Ker Chien-ming’s (柯建銘) plan to merge Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County into a special municipality.
Members of opposition parties have criticized Ker’s plan as serving his own political interests. Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅), who was Ker’s assistant for nine years, must leave his mayoral post when his second term ends in December next year, but the merger would allow Lin to run for mayor of the new special municipality, opponents said.
To make the merger happen, the DPP caucus on Friday said it would push a draft amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) through to a second reading at the legislative assembly. Under the strong objection of opposition legislators, the draft was required to be reviewed by two legislative committees.
Ker said that those opposed to the plan are “impeding Hsinchu’s development,” and that the success of Hsinchu’s semiconductor industry is tied to that of the nation.
Few Taiwanese might object to supporting the nation’s tech industry, which has allowed Taiwan to shine amid global supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government should not use the tech industry as a pretext to expand its administrative power. Any attempt to change municipality divisions should consider funding allocation and national land use.
There are also discussions about merging Chiayi City, Chiayi County and Yunlin County, but the nation already has six special municipalities: Kaohsiung, New Taipei City, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei and Taoyuan. It is questionable if more should be created if there is no convincing reason.
While the government seems driven by an endless need for industrial expansion, there has been insufficient discussion about balancing regional development and improving water and electricity supply for different sectors. When officials are ecstatic about more firms entering new science parks, few bother to worry about the fragmentation of farmland or how to enhance the nation’s food self-sufficiency.
The key to stable semiconductor industry development is ensuring a sufficient supply of water and electricity, rather than merging Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County, former Hsinchu Science Park administration bureau head James Lee (李界木) wrote in an op-ed in the Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times) published on Thursday.
Creating a bigger Hsinchu would not improve water supply to the science park, but instead create more tension over water demand from residents and other industries, he wrote.
Last year, Taiwan experienced its worst water shortage in 50 years, but the lessons of that crisis seem to have been lost on many people.
To help the nation thrive sustainably, the government must set aside political considerations and present more careful plans for national and regional developments.
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