City gives assurance to stadium bid firms
Tim Culpan in Taipei
Kaohsiung says World Games project will not resemble Guggenheim debacle
Taiwan's Kaohsiung city government yesterday outlined an ambitious plan to tender and complete a sports park and stadium in three years, playing down concerns over the island's public tender environment.
City officials told potential bidders yesterday the budget was assured and the project would proceed smoothly without political problems.
Domestic and foreign companies are being invited to bid for the right to build a 40,000-seat sports stadium on a 19-hectare site that will play host to the 2009 World Games. The winning bidder will need to begin work in January next year, and complete the project by January 2009.
However, foreign and local construction companies have shied away from large-scale government building tenders in the wake of last year's Guggenheim debacle.
Taichung City had secured an agreement from the Guggenheim foundation to build a branch of the famed museum in the central Taiwan city, but the deal fell through because of budget concerns. It may be revived if the money can be secured.
Kaohsiung will not face the same problem, according to acting mayor Chen Chi-mai. Kaohsiung's elected mayor, Frank Hsieh, is now the premier of Taiwan.
'The main problem that arose out of that [Guggenheim] project was that city councillors were apprehensive about site selection, the Taiwan government already approved the budget so it was a city government problem,' Mr Chen said.
However, the problem was that budgetary promises from the Taiwan government came too late for the Guggenheim foundation while Taichung city councillors had declined to bankroll the US$250 million project.
Kaohsiung's World Games Stadium budget is NT$5 billion ($1.2 billion) and will be funded entirely by the central government, said Charles Lin, director of the Kaohsiung City Bureau of Public Works. The budget has already been approved and secured, he said.
Despite the assurance of funds, foreigner bidders remained concerned about the bidding and construction environment which fails to meet international standards.
'Right now the laws are not good enough, it's not a good environment for foreign companies,' said Matthieu Lefort, commercial attache for the French Institute in Taipei. 'They have a feeling that there's a third way, a Taiwan way.'
Despite claims the World Stadium will be an international project, foreign participation will be severely limited. Among the restrictions is the limitation of foreign involvement in joint-tenders on the design and construction supply portions of the project. Construction, architecture and even water and electrical appliances must be completed by Taiwan firms.
The winning bidder will not be allowed to hire foreign labour, Mr Lin said. Labour from Thailand and Indonesia is common in Taiwan.