Taipei-Premier Lin Chuan said in a recent interview that the government has allocated a major share of the proposed "forward-looking infrastructure development" budget to railway transport because such projects generate extensive benefits.
As long as government investment benefits the public, it does not necessarily have to be 100-percent self-liquidating, Lin said in an interview with CNA on Aug. 16.
The Premier was responding to concerns raised by some critics that the low self-liquidating ratio of railway projects could impose a heavy debt burden on future generations.
Railway projects have greater potential to bring in revenue than road projects and produce comparatively greater benefits than other public infrastructure projects, he argued.
Taipei's mass rapid transit (MRT) system, for example, benefited the public in many ways although initially its operations were not very good, he said.
In the past, Taipei City's Zhongxiao East Road was always gridlocked, but congestion has eased since the launch of the MRT system, while air pollution and traffic accidents have also decreased, he said.
"These are public benefits, which make it worth doing even if the government loses some money," he said.
Lin pointed out that Taipei's MRT system was dubbed "the world's most expensive" in the past, but is now operating very successfully.
"We need to look far ahead, because an MRT system will probably operate for decades and maybe even for over 100 years," he said.
Through the "forward-looking infrastructure development plan," the government hopes to increase the value of Taiwan's existing rail networks, for example by better integrating traditional railway, high-speed railway and MRT systems to increase their efficiency and benefits, he said.
The premier said if there is an opportunity, he would be happy to talk to opposition legislators and explain the budget plan, so as to clear up any doubts they might have.
After the budget plan is approved by the Legislative Yuan, the government will next focus on reforming the country's taxation system, he said.
Under the Special Budget Statute for Forward-Looking Infrastructure passed by the Legislature last month, the Cabinet plans to spend up to NT$420 billion over the next four years on national infrastructure.
The Cabinet has proposed a NT$108.90 billion special budget that will cover the first stage of implementation from September 2017 to December 2018 and is hoping it will clear the Legislature by Aug. 31.
The proposed budget includes NT$17.07 billion for railway transport construction, NT$25.67 billion to improve the local water environment, NT$8.12 billion for green energy programs, NT$16.17 billion for digital development and NT$35.41 billion for urban and rural projects.
It also allocates NT$1.96 billion to build a better environment for child care and education, NT$310 million to improve food safety and NT$4.2 billion to promote training programs.
Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council