Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Pan-blues make foolish promises

By the Liberty Times editorial

The presidential election campaign has entered its final, most intense stage. Both sides not only issue promises to attract votes but also put forward their opinions on the nation's future. Voters will have to use their intelligence to decide whether these opinions stand up to scrutiny.

In the recent dispute over an all-volunteer army, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) have advocated recruiting 200,000 soldiers in four years and requiring only three months of military service under the conscription system. This is a plan that might win votes, but it is also a plan based on a complete lack of foresight.

It means that 50,000 soldiers would have to be recruited annually for the next four years, though only 160,000 men will turn 20 each year during that period -- which also means that only about 160,000 men will be added to the workforce each year. If the military were to absorb nearly one-third of these men, wouldn't universities and industry experience a shortage of talent, and wouldn't the military be certain to recruit many unsuitable men?

Last month, the Ministry of Defense called for 647 volunteer officers but only managed to recruit 298. How could we possibly succeed if we suddenly had to recruit one-third of all the men turning 20? And do one-third of our young men want to be soldiers for the rest of their lives?

Even if the nation's most popular industries -- the electronics and information industries -- were to try to recruit 50,000 men annually for four years in a row, they would encounter great difficulties.

If one-third of our young men are to be recruited every year, and if they all are to be top-quality soldiers, their salaries will have to be a lot higher than current salaries in the private sector. The government will therefore have an additional NT$200 billion in salary expenditure each year, something that the nation's finances will not be able to bear. The rush to implement an all-volunteer military force is simply an unrealistic policy.

In addition, the pan-blue camp proposes a "1 million PhD" plan to produce 1 million doctorates. Although this makes an attractive slogan, we wouldn't have enough talented people to produce that many PhDs even if we implemented the plan over a 40-year period. The current under-25 population, together with those who will be born over the next 15 years, totals about 7.5 million. This is the demographic pool out of which we will educate our doctoral degree holders over the next 40 years.

If we want to educate 1 million doctoral degree holders, one of every seven or eight people must earn a doctorate. This is impossible. Based on these proportions, 40,000 people would have to earn a doctorate each year, about the same number as earn doctorates each year in the US. But the US population is more than 10 times that of Taiwan, and there are also many foreigners earning doctorates in the US.

Let's examine the question further by examining students' scores in last year's university entrance exams.

If we were to take 15,000 students from the humanities group and 25,000 from the science group and put them on the course to a doctorate, those scoring at least 280 out of 500 in the literature group and those scoring at least 198 in the science group would qualify for the program.

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