Going on a diet is never easy. Making the resolution to trim down is one thing, carrying it out is another. This is especially true of bureaucracies. For more than a decade, the government has been dithering about slimming down. Now it has finally come up with a plan to reduce the number of Cabinet-level agencies by about a third, from 35 to 22 or 23. While the Executive Yuan's draft proposal demonstrates a praiseworthy determination to streamline, it looks as if there is still some fat left to trim.
Why not incorporate the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? The commission is a historical relic from the early days of the ROC. It was set up by Sun Yat-sen (
The Council of Hakka Affairs, the Council of Aboriginal Affairs and the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission should be merged into one commission for the development of ethnic minorities. The Hakka and Aboriginal councils were created to make good on President Chen Shui-bian's (
Why not merge the Veteran Affairs Commission into the Ministry of National Defense? The commission was set up to take care of the soldiers who came to Taiwan along with the KMT government. As that generation of war veterans dies off, there will be a reduced need for special programs for them. Providing for the employment of decommissioned soldiers and the recruitment of reserve troops overlap with the defense ministry's own programs, so a merger would be another step toward greater simplicity and efficiency.
However, agency mergers only scratch the surface of government reform. A thorough streamlining means reducing personnel, integrating agency functions and improving efficiency. If this is not done, then the current reform drive will prove as much of a shambles as the downsizing of the Taiwan Provincial Government. Vigorous opposition from the provincial government limited that downsizing attempt to a mere facade. In the end, there was still too little improvement in efficiency and too many people on the payroll.
The governments of Japan and China have both recently undertaken large-scale streamlining programs. After enduring painful reform periods, both are beginning to see positive results. Two previous efforts by the Cabinet to get the Legislative Yuan to amend to the Executive Yuan's organizational laws failed in the face of the enormous political obstacles placed against them. The Taiwan government has consistently received poor ratings for its efficiency, both from its own citizens and the international community. It is time for the government to stop talking about the need to streamline and improve operational efficiency and just do it.