Cabinet denies infrastructure plan was ‘hastily made’

The China Post

By Stephanie Chao — The special act for the government-led “Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Plan” has met some snags in the Legislature, with the Cabinet’s spokesman attempting damage limitation Tuesday. Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said in a radio interview that the government’s explanation of the plan had indeed been lacking in clarity. However, he stressed that the program was a long-term undertaking and not as what others have speculated as a “hasty plan.”  The interview comes at a time when the plan has faced staunch opposition from Kuomintang (KMT) in the Legislature. Lawmakers are set to carry out another joint meeting of six legislative committee to preliminary review the draft statute that would grant the Cabinet to budget NT$882.49 billion.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator who presided over the review admitted last week that she had failed to handle the preliminary review appropriately and was therefore duty bound to annul the vote and have the bill reviewed once more.

Hsu’s media interview was then viewed as an attempt to address the situation, as media reports indicated that President Tsai Ing-wen had expressed dismay over the lack of communication over the infrastructure plan. Opinions were also solicited from various parties during initial discussions of the plan, Hsu said, such as Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南), governor of the Central Bank of the Republic of China. The Forward-Looking Infrastructure Plan is expected to create 40,000 to 50,000 jobs in eight years, Hsu said. “Among that number, Taiwanese workers will be guaranteed job positions.” Many counties and cities, including Kuomintang-led regions, have been actively pursuing participation in the program, Hsu said, which suggests that the plan itself “is a good thing.”

The infrastructure plan’s main structure will cover five sectors — green energy, digital, water resources, railways, urban and rural infrastructure. Aside from “hardware” or physical infrastructure, the government will also concentrate on “software” infrastructure, Hsu says, specifically and more importantly through relaxing laws. Taiwan’s existing laws governing digital infrastructure is lacking, Hsu said. “Relaxing the laws will push Taiwan’s world ranking in terms of digital environment from around 20 to the top 10.” In face of critics referring to the Tsai administration’s infrastructure project that would increase the amount of abandoned buildings, Hsu emphasized that the plan would not do so.

The plan would instead allow the existing “abandoned infrastructure” become usable again, such as Kaohsiung’s Sinda Harbor, he said. The Cabinet currently has plans to turn offshore ocean areas into a marine and science technology park and turn inshore ocean areas into a tourist and recreational harbor.  Earlier Tuesday morning, KMT lawmakers occupied the speaker’s rostrum in the Legislature, in stark defiance of ruling-party plans to continue reviewing a controversial multibillion dollar infrastructure spending plan. They also demanded that the DPP include their demands — ranging from cutting back on the budget to around NT$500 billion and slash the duration to only four years, otherwise they vowed to continue to occupy the rostrum on Wednesday.  Meanwhile Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) urged the KMT to reflect on its decision to occupy the rostrum, calling for interparty negotiations to try and end the current circumambulatory impasse.