All three candidates in the upcoming mayoral by-election in Kaohsiung vowed Saturday to push for quality infrastructure despite a relatively tight budget during their only televised policy presentation before the Aug. 15 vote.
Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said she will continue the efforts of former Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the KMT, who was ousted in a recall vote in June, to make sure that "roads are flat, lights are bright, and ditches are unblocked." She blasted the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which governed the southern Taiwan city for two decades before Han was elected in 2018, for failing to maintain even the most basic infrastructure.
Adding to Kaohsiung's woes is a debt of some NT$330 billion (US$11.17 billion) left by Han's predecessors, which was partly a result of poor financial management, Li said.
Wu Yi-jheng (吳益政) of the Taiwan People's Party added that roads must also be widened so that more trees could be planted to mitigate "urban heat island" effects, referring to the higher temperatures in urban areas caused by their dense populations and concentrations. Wu also advocated amending the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures so that Kaohsiung keeps more of the tax revenues paid by taxpayers in the city.
A person can only gain intellectual freedom through financial independence, he argued, and said the notion applies to cities as well. Li agreed on reforming the act, and vowed to reduce the city's debts and increase the earnings of Kaohsiung residents.
Former Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the DPP, the overwhelming favorite to win the by-election after being defeated by Han in 2018, denied that the central government has not taken Kaohsiung's development seriously. He said the city actually received the most funding from the central government of any administrative area in Taiwan from 2017 to 2019.
Chen also accused the KMT of contributing to the current financial shortage during its rule of Kaohsiung until 1998, and said he would appeal to the central government for more funding. At the same time, the DPP candidate pledged to establish standard operating procedures for city infrastructure, including for project construction, maintenance, and supervision.
Among the highlights of the policy platform presentation was Li's proposal to promote the rum industry in the city because of its abundant supply of sugar cane, which the distilled alcoholic beverage is made of. If Kaohsiung could garner 10 percent of the global rum market, it would generate an annual income of NT$50 billion, she said.
"Everybody knows Kinmen has Kaoliang liquor and Yilan has Kavalan (a whiskey distillery), and I believe Kaohsiung could establish its own winery," she said.