Friday, January 16, 2015

An Unilateral Move on Flight Routes

* In a surprise announcement on January 12, Beijing imposed four new flight routes--M503, W121, W122, and W123--that, Taipei believed, would threaten flight safety in Taiwan.

* Expectedly Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) voiced strong objection to China's unilateral decision to implement the new flight routes, starting from March 5, 2015.

* As cross-Strait relations are still reeling from the aftermath of ruling Kuomintang's (KMT) embarrassing electoral defeat last November 29, Beijing's decision on the new flight routes isn't helpful. Other than complete surprise, few in Taiwan could offer plausible reasons for Beijing to do what it did at this point in time.

* At the minimum, this unilateral decision will further erode the momentum behind President Ma Ying-jeou's engagement policy toward China, and it would give the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legitimate grounds to challenge future attempts at reconciliation with a not-so-friendly neighbor across the Taiwan Strait.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Taiwan High-Speed Rail Close to Bankrupt

* In an 18-0 vote, lawmakers across party lines joined forces and voted down the financial re-structuring plan, proposed by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), to save the Taiwan High-Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC) from going bankrupt.

* The MOTC's plan called for NT$150 billion for new locomotives and cars, and NT$200-300 billion to maintain operations over the next 50 years.

* Following the vote in Taiwan's Legislative Yuan (LY), Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih, along with THSRC Chairman Tony C. Fan, submitted their resignations. Efforts are under way to persuade them to stay on.

* Though is has been the main transportation artery along the west coast of Taiwan, the high-speed rail project has been a controversial issue since it first began during 1992-93. From the technology to be applied to the amount of capitalization needed, the project has fallen victim to partisan bickering characteristic of Taiwan's domestic politics.

* Unless something is done to save the THSRC from going bankrupt, the government may be forced to take over this first large-scale BOT project in Taiwan.