Do fiscal crises drive extravagant spending, or do they just highlight it? Earlier this year the Taichung county government, flat broke, petitioned the central government for permission to increase dredging in local rivers so it could sell the gravel for a few dollars. Here in the small Taichung county town where I live the speed cameras are all broken because there is no money to fix them. And yet the government has decided that what central Taiwan really needs is a world class opera house. Sucking down large sums of central government quatloos

Premier Su Tseng-chang agreed Saturday to offer an additional NT$500 million in construction grant for the Taichung municipal government to build a world-class opera house in the central city.The planned Taichung opera house originally called for an outlay of NT$2.4 billion and the Cabinet-level Council for Cultural Affairs had agreed to contribute half of the needed budget.

As the winning design for the new opera house, created by a Japanese architect, requires special technology and materials, city officials said the construction cost will spike by more than NT$1.1 billion. The city government has expressed its hope that the Executive Yuan offers more grant for the project.

During a community outreach of Taichung Saturday, Su acceded to an increase of NT$500 million in the central government’s grant for the ambitious construction project after Taichung Mayor Jason Hu made three assurances — the city government will be able to complete the project smoothly, the city council fully supports the project and there will be no more cost overruns.

Wow! It would be truly amazing to see an infrastructure project here in Taiwan with no cost overruns and smooth completion (can anyone say “High Speed Rail?”). Apparently since we lost the Guggenheim when the city council balked, we are going to get an opera house by way of compensation — note that Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (KMT) had to provide assurances that the city council would not reject this project.

For a look at the winning design, go here. It looks like someplace where Captain Kirk was enslaved on an alien planet. I’m sure it will fit right into the tile-n-concrete world of Taichung.

[Taiwan] [Taichung]