Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Easing the change in government

By Ronald Ho

The new cross-party administration will be taking over in the absence of any precedent and established system for a transfer of power. We lack the type of party-to-party negotiations and coordination for power transfer often seen in the West.

If the new administration occasionally expresses skepticism or disapproval over the old administration, or if the old administration is unable to abandon its authoritarian and egotistic approach during the transition period, conflicts between the two over allegations of "resistance" to the transfer or "discourteousness" will repeatedly take place. It is difficult for the civil servants who are caught between the old and new bosses as well. This is not good for the country.

The rotation of ruling parties will necessarily create chaos and conflicts at first. However, there may be a chance to see the light of day for politics throughout the process.

Chaos results from a lack of trust between the parties. Right now no law exists to regulate the transfer process. In the future, relevant regulations on issues including the obligations of the incoming cabinet members should be drafted as soon as possible.

Although incumbent cabinet members are legally empowered to make decisions before jointly submit their resignation, they should avoid making any decisions on long-term policies, except those of exceptional urgency, to prevent misunderstandings or criticism.

The making of policies that are either biased in favor of a certain party or irreversible should be avoided, so that the new cabinet will not be incapable of correcting the policies and public trust toward the government will be endangered by attempts to reverse such policies.

Next, the transfer of power between administrations should be done on a collective and interactive basis.

Although President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has not been inaugurated yet, all the government officials and relevant personnel should see Chen as the head of the state and cooperate with him, as long as they report to their superiors first and their actions do not run counter to national interests.

This is because Chen's authority has been legitimized by his election and no gap should exist during the transfer process on important national security matters such as the defense and foreign policy.

New cabinet members are not legally empowered because they have not been officially appointed yet. Therefore, they have no right to issue commands or orders. It is easy to imagine the difficulties facing those incumbent cabinet members who will be joining the new administra-tion.

Besides establishing a singular channel of communication through inter-party negotiations, the existing cabinet should also officially order all the ministries to appoint civil servants as consultants for the new cabinet. This is so that civil servants would not have to face accusations of betrayal or lack legal basis for helping the new cabinet.

All the administrative agencies and bodies are partly staffed by impartial civil servants on long term basis. Administrative officials should learn to delegate jobs to avoid being trapped into minute management details. They must also learn to guide with concepts and policies to correct civil servants' customs of staying passive and inactive.

The new administration should not waste its energy bickering over every last detail of the transfer. Instead, it should immediately examine all the inappropriate legal orders and submit new policies and suggestions. It should bring some new ideas to the government and lead the government onto a new path. It should compete with the incumbent administration in terms of administrative accomplishments.

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