Newspaper article China Post

Land Development Policy Needs an Overhaul

Newspaper article China Post

Land Development Policy Needs an Overhaul

Article excerpt

The bribery scandal that disgraced a high-ranking government official as well as a real estate billionaire has once again highlighted how Taiwan is plagued by corruption. But much public discussion arising from the latest case has been directed toward the nation's housing and land development policy.

After former President Chen Shui-bian was jailed for corruption, nothing would really surprise the nation in terms of government officials taking bribes. Since then, a few other prominent political figures - including former Cabinet Secretary General Lin Yi-shih - have been prosecuted for corruption.

The sad irony in the latest case is that people are less interested in the reason why the now-dismissed Taoyuan County deputy chief, Yeh Shih-wen, would ask for bribes. The general public basically assumes that many government officials would take bribes if they happened to be in the "right" position. In this case, Yeh was in charge of the Taoyuan public housing project at the core of the scandal.

The public is more interested in knowing why Chao Teng-hsiung, whose Farglory Land Development Co. has built so many luxury residential and modern commercial buildings, would want to have a part in helping the Taoyuan government construct low-cost housing for low-income families.

Judging from the large sums involved in the bribes Farglory is alleged to have given to Yeh, Chao clearly wasn't doing it for charity or out of a sense of social commitment.

The company was apparently looking for profits from the project. And we can assume that the profit margin would have been so high that Farglory was willing to take the risk.

The low-cost apartment units that Farglory would have been building (the Taoyuan government terminated the contract with the firm after the scandal broke) were set at about NT$140,000 per ping (36 square feet), which is much lower than the price for privately-built apartments in the neighborhood.

The price could come down to such a low level because the cost of the land would be covered by the government.

Land is indeed the core incentive that has been motivating so many developers to vie for government projects. …

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