Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Stop dragging down the economy

By Yophy Huang 黃耀輝

The NT$70-billion special bills hastily drawn up by the Cabinet to combat unemployment hit a snag during a review on the legislative floor. To be fair, the Cabinet must take full responsibility for this.

The plight of the unemployed deserves our sympathy and it is urgent that the unemployment rate be reduced. If the opposition parties had wanted to act irresponsibly, they could have followed the Cabinet's lead -- even to the extent of raising the stakes by shelling out trillions of dollars on a project that lasts several years to eliminate the unemployment problem. So why didn't the opposition act charitably and garner more votes at the same time?

In 2001, the DPP budgeted a NT$16 billion stipend program for senior citizens in a drive to make good on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) campaign promises. Despite their misgivings, the opposition had to come to terms with this demand. They might as well have bowed to the ruling party's proposal this time too. Why did they have to run the risk of being misunderstood by the electorate?

The bill's crude contents and the procedures adopted by the Cabinet have enabled rational voters to clearly see the ruling party's bad habit -- that it will stop at nothing to attain its end as long as the goal is correct; that it can ignore whether a plan is reasonable as long as it is well-intentioned.

This is the source of chaos that has led to today's economic doldrums and high unemployment. A government notorious for policy flip-flops finds it difficult to win the people's trust and support. Who will believe that the Cabinet's program is not driven by political factors or electoral considerations?

A careful observation into the unemployment-relief proposal raises many questions. If the DPP administration had not sloppily halted major construction projects such as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, undermining businesses' confidence in the government, the economy and unemployment might be in a less serious condition today.

Since the grave unemployment problem emerged two years ago when the economy took a nosedive, why didn't the government take steps then and put forth pragmatic programs to boost the economy and to combat joblessness? The government could have made a difference when making its budget for this year, but why did it choose to reduce the spending on economic development?

Why doesn't the government make effective use of the NT$20 billion Employment Security Fund? Why doesn't it improve the efficiency of the current construction projects before proposing a NT$50 billion public construction expansion program?

Where is the logic of creating unemployment on the one hand and granting relief funds to combat unemployment on the other? Since the government tried only to bring down this year's unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, what if these people become jobless again next year? Shall we forget about the matter until after the presidential election?

Many belt-tightening measures can expand domestic demand and create employment opportunities without increasing government spending -- for example, opening up direct links with China and allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan.

Why would the government rather lavish money on missiles and warships to benefit other countries?

We still have plenty of monetary sources to cut down unemployment. Why has the NT$12 billion of the Employment Security Fund been left on the back burner?

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