DPP candidates’ preparation questionable after mistakes

The China Post news staff

In the only vice presidential debate, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen listed three figures on infrastructure savings that he claimed were achieved during the Chen Shui-bian administration.

Three projects during Chen Shui-bian’s term, Chen Chien-jen said in the debate, were completed while saving a great deal of money for the taxpayer. He claimed the Central Section of Highway No. 2 (中二高) had a budget allotment of NT$500 billion, and was completed with just NT$260 billion. The Keelung River infrastructure improvement project was allotted NT$150 billion and only NT$32 billion was used, and the Taoyuan Datan Power Plant (桃園大潭電廠) was slated to cost NT$400 billion but only cost NT$100 billion, Chen said. On Dec. 28 and 30, the KMT hit back, saying that in regard to the Central Section of Highway No. 2 project, it was actually NT$298.5 billion allotted when the contract awarding process was completed, with a surplus of NT$225.1 billion from the original NT$525.1 billion budget — and claimed that the cost savings were achieved before Chen Shui-bian came to power.

Tsai Ing-wen made her own mistake in the second presidential debate last Saturday. Candidate Tsai told KMT candidate Eric Chu, “You said you would raise the minimum wage to NT$30,000, but your running mate says she would raise it to NT$40,000. It’s apparent that you haven’t discussed this very important issue thoroughly with her.” To which Chu promptly fired back, in the space of a few seconds, at the end of his turn, that “what I said was a minimum wage, while what Ms. Wang said was the salary for a vocationally trained graduate. These are two completely different things!”

What superficially seemed like an opponent’s inconsistency was instead a segmented policy proposal that Tsai and her team failed to study properly. She, however, will probably not be substantially damaged by the mistake. The exchange didn’t gain any traction among the public. In 2011, the Ministry of Transport and Communications came out to address the issue of who can claim credit for “saving money” on the remaining sections of National Highway No. 2, after the northern section was completed. The agency emphasized that the contract awarding process was completed in 1999, and therefore the massive savings of NT$225.1 billion “had nothing to do with the change in administration.”

Last Wednesday, Dec. 30, Chen Chien-jen did apologize for saying that the “Northern Section of Highway No. 2,” (北二高) was completed during the DPP’s presidential tenure, admitting that it was the KMT’s Lee Teng-hui who oversaw its completion. However, he did not answer the majority of the KMT’s accusations. Similarly, the public has already been scrutinizing DPP claims regarding the Keelung River project. Some research shows that NT$32 billion was allocated as part of the DPP administration’s own 2002-2006 budget, under the name “The Keelung River Overall Improvement Project (Early Stage)” (中央政府基隆河整體治理計畫 — 期計畫). The budget is available online, published by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.