Thu, Mar 15, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Policymaking woes hurt task force

By Wang Yeh-lih 王業立

Since the government came to power last year, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has received different evaluations of his policymaking methods and styles. Even DPP members, including Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), have made repeated complaints. For that reason, following the dispute over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, a nine-member task force was established to bring together opinions from the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, DPP headquarters and the party's legislative caucus.

The task force was intended to pool collective wisdom and develop coordination. After several months, however, the task force has obviously failed to meet those original expectations, and its very orientation and functions are thought to be in need of reconsideration.

In the existing constitutional framework, the Executive Yuan is the highest administrative body. The president need not, indeed should not, assume sole responsibility for all policies. Even when the president has to deal with crucial national security issues, he can consult the National Security Council (國家安全會議), an organization within the government system, to help develop an integrated policy. I wonder why this mechanism has not only failed to function, but even the nine-member task force, not a formal part of the government system, has brewed another storm of political disputes.

The root of the problem lies in the Constitution. If politicians do not abide by the established constitutional structure or policymaking system, they will still mess things up even if the task force is restructured.

The second problem is Chen's character. If he cannot change his style of "one-man policymaking," any decision-making or coordinating groups will be reduced to "a group to be notified" or "a rubber-stamp group."

Thirdly, Chen should acknowledge the functions of political parties. He must have known that he could not transcend or withdraw from party activities after assuming the presidency. Instead, he should show leadership toward the arties, and take advantage of their functions to coordinate the executive and legislative branches, as well as to build communication channels between the ruling and opposition parties.

Of course, beginners need time to learn, but Chen has been in office for around 10 months. When making important national policy decisions, Chen should learn to listen to all sides and take into consideration advice made in good faith, communicate and coordinate among different groups, and make final decisions with the utmost care. Chen shoulders the keen expectations of the Taiwanese people. He should conduct a sincere examination of his government's approach to policy-making, starting with a self-critique.

Wang Yeh-lih is chairman of the political science department at Tunghai University.

Translated by Jackie Lin

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