Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Hau made the right decision

The sole remaining pan-blue camp member in the Cabinet, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Administrator Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) submitted his resignation on Wednesday. Despite the controversy and mixed reviews of the EPA's ban on the use of plastic bags and utensils by retail stores, many would agree that Hau is a very capable official. He has repeatedly been ranked first in surveys about public support for Cabinet members. However, his departure is not only inevitable but also better for both himself and the administration.

Hau has been fortunate enough to enjoy VIP treatment from both the pan-green and pan-blue camps. This is evident by the fact that the EPA was the only Cabinet-level government body to have its budgets approved without a cut from pan-blue members in the Legislative Yuan. On the other hand, Hau himself has also expressed his gratitude toward Premier Yu Shyi-kun for supporting his policies, including the provision of a NT$100 million reserve fund to help out members of the plastic-ware industry hit by the ban on plastic bags and utensils.

This is not to say that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is not somewhat at loss about what to do with Hau. His presence in the Cabinet has had immense symbolic value after the departure of former premier Tang Fei (唐飛) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It kept President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) promise of a "Cabinet for all people" from fumbling completely. The only problem for the DPP has been that however good Hau may have been, people do not seem to give either Chen or Yu the credit.

Hau's role in the Cabinet, however, became somewhat awkward as the countdown for next year's presidential election began. He is the former chief convener of New Party, who recruited Li Ao (李敖) to run against Chen in the 2000 election, and the son of former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村). The purity of his "pan-blue" blood is beyond question.

While Hau was successful in efforts to steer clear of political issues during his term as the EPA head, that has become increasingly difficult as Chen's campaign themes shift toward such issues as a new constitution and national referendums -- taboo subjects for pan-blue members.

Regardless of whether it was Hau's insistence that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for projects that have already been approved should be exempt from being subject to the proposed referendum law, a view at odds with those of Yu, was really the reason for his resignation, it is the least damaging reason for both him and the DPP.

It cannot have been comfortable for him to be just about the only Cabinet member not supporting Chen's re-election bid. Whether he would have been reappointed were Chen to win a second term is unclear. Whether KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) would ask him to stay off were he to win the election is also unclear. As for the DPP, without Hau, the entire Cabinet can now present a united front ahead of the election. That can only be a plus.

As for the question of EIAs and referendums, it is wrong to think of this as an "either or" situation. While in the true spirit of democracy, the people ultimately should get to call the shots, their decision can only be made based on professional assessments of the all the ups and downs.

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