Now we’re moving nation’s capital south to Kaohsiung?

The China Post

After evoking widespread controversy for changing the names of numerous government institutions and state-run enterprises, President Chen Shui-bian has come up with an even more cockamamie idea for drumming up political support.

Responding to calls from legislators within his Democratic Progressive Party to move the capital from Taipei to Kaohsiung, President Chen has suggested that certain government ministries, agencies and state-run enterprises should relocate their headquarters from Taipei to southern Taiwan.

Agencies suggested for removal to the south have included the Council of Agriculture (COA), the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) and the COA’s Fisheries Administration.

Suggestions have also been made to move the headquarters of the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) and the CPC Corp. Taiwan, the state-run oil company formerly known as Chinese Petroleum, to southern Taiwan.

At the present time, leadership is desperately needed to guide our economy as we move toward a new and uncertain future.

But sadly, our politicians have been far too busy changing names, official phonetic spellings and redecorating offices to bother themselves with thinking about policies that might have a more substantial impact on the people’s livelihood. Of course, “people’s livelihood” is probably a dirty word in this country by now, since it formed one of the “Three Principles of the People” that formed the bedrock of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s ideology.

While President Chen hasn’t promised to move the entire capital to southern Taiwan, he has signaled that these various offices and agencies should be shipped out during his term in office.

Southern Taiwan is a wonderful place and enjoys many advantages, not the least of which are lower operating outlays such as for real estate and cost of living.

Southern Taiwan also boasts all of the same advantages that northern Taiwan enjoys, such as access to the outside world through Hsiaokang International Airport and, indeed, Taiwan’s largest and most advanced seaport.

However, it is still bizarre for the government to suddenly move ministries and agencies out of the capital city.

One of the main reasons for having all government departments and agencies in the capital is to centralize administration.

If some agencies are not in the capital, they will naturally be at a disadvantage when their officials are unable to attend meetings.

It is also possible that the funding budgets for these agencies will slip as a result of their being shipped out of the capital.

We also wonder how suddenly being moved across the country on a whim will affect the morale of employees, many of whom have built their lives and careers living in Taipei.

It is quite ironic that we have to remind our DPP friends that many important government bodies were not located in Taipei in the first place until 1997, when the Taiwan Provincial Government was scrapped in all but name.

Before that time, many important provincial government departments were headquartered at Chung Hsing Village in Nantou County, at the geographic center of the island.

The deal to strip the provincial government of its powers and move many of the former provincial agencies to the capital was reached as a result of a 1996 compromise reached between the former Kuomintang government and — guess who — the DPP.

Of course, the 1996 compromise reached at the National Development Conference is probably regarded by DPP stalwarts as ancient history and is likely to be erased from school textbooks along with the “Rape of Nanking.”

When the KMT government took control of Taiwan from the Japanese in 1945, Taipei was the seat of what became the provincial government.

It was none other than former President Chiang Kai-shek, the man whom President Chen has constantly castigated and condemned in recent weeks, who made the decision to move important provincial government agencies and departments from Taipei to Nantou County.

If President Chen really wants to satisfy his supporters, he should consider expending all the government’s resources to ditch Taipei altogether in favor of building a new capital city.

By doing so, he would be following in the footsteps of the likes of Nigeria, which moved its capital from Lagos to the new city of Abuja in 1991, and Myanmar, which just moved its seat of government from Yangon (Rangoon) to the “greenfield” town of Naypyidaw in 2005.

But something tells us that rather than consider moving our capital, President Chen should be more concerned with the kind of capital that is moving out of Taiwan as a result of his endless political shenanigans — investment capital.