Sun, Jan 09, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Time to cut down KMT money tree

Wang Chien-chuang

The KMT has been ruling supreme in Taiwan for half a century, with 30 of those years under the iron fist of martial law. This has allowed the KMT to enjoy special privileges and resources, including a massive party-run business empire. This is a product of one-party rule -- the residue of which can still be seen today. The KMT's business empire was already quite sizable during the time that Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) was president.

However, it was not until Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) came to power and promoted Liu Tai-ying (劉泰-^) as the KMT's treasurer that its business empire became the mammoth it is today, with more than 300 firms controlled by its seven holdings companies. Under the banners of modernization, efficiency, and internationalization, the empire marches like an imperialist army, setting up colonies and planting its party flag everywhere it goes.

It is a great irony that President Lee, known to some as "Mr Democracy," has helped party-run businesses thrive to such a large extent. Liu's role as chairman of the party's Business Management Committee has made him nearly untouchable: even orders from party bosses have little effect on his dealings. His name has become synonymous with the KMT's business empire.

If not for Lee's authorization and Liu's helmsmanship, the KMT's financial kingdom would not have swelled to the size that it is today.

The fact of the matter is, however, that the sun is setting on the KMT regime and its blueprint for power has become more and more outdated in recent years. On the other hand, there is one thing that the party has been excelling at -- the ability to expand its money-making activities.

The KMT is relying on the cash in its coffers to prolong what little power it still has. The DPP has only around NT$20 million or so yet remains a viable party based on the fundamentals of politics. One has to wonder how long the KMT would have survived with such a paltry amount of money to keep it afloat.

Seen from this viewpoint, the KMT will be cutting off its own money lifeline if Lien Chan's (3s戰) promise to put party assets in trust is delivered. Even though the move may not be fatal, it will cripple the KMT and turn it into party suitable for the scrap heap.

However, even if Lien does not cut off his links to the flow of party funds, an election victory by Chen Shui-bian (3?糮?/CHINESE>) or James Soong (宋楚瑜) will mean a day of reckoning for those who hold the purse strings of the KMT's finances and those who control the party-held businesses.

The KMT seems to have decided -- since its death is only a matter of time -- to become its own executioner, and, at the same time, bet on the mirage-like notion of "reform" so that it will not have to forfeit all its assets and become penniless.

But putting party assets in a trust does not mean the KMT is getting rid of its wealth, nor will it consign party-run businesses to history. If Lien cannot put into place a three-phase reform timetable for putting the assets into trust, return that part of the money which belongs to the people and abolish party-run businesses, then the KMT will simply be like a gecko trying to survive by cutting off its own tail to deceive others.

Wang Chien-chuang is president of The Journalist magazine.

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