Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The grim road ahead

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year message was different from his previous speeches that pretended everything was going well.

This time, he adopted a more aggressive attitude in dealing with problems that have plagued the government since 2000.

Commentators say that since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power, the party has been living in a dream world in which "reconciliation" with the opposition is possible. This led the government to support a policy of "active opening, effective management" over China and "reconciliation and coexistence" with the opposition.

But Chen has finally realized that what the opposition really wants is the power to rule.

As a result, major bills such as the arms procurement plan, the reconstruction of government agencies, the handling of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) stolen assets, and the NT$80 billion flood prevention budget have been consistently blocked in the legislature.

The pan-blue camp believes that with its legislative majority it can simply use gridlock to cripple the government until the next presidential election.

It has also allied itself with Beijing in placing pressure on the government to allow fruit exports to China, challenged the executive in pushing for direct links and insisted that the National Communications Commission adopt a dubious procedure in which members are selected based on representation in the legislature. It is not considering a change of policy, and why should it? Closing down chunks of the executive has proved politically acceptable for voters who value action over rhetoric.

Chen has rekindled hope among the pan-green camp's supporters, for many believe that Chen has now renounced reconciliation with the opposition and realized that current trade policies have made the economy too reliant on China.

He also admitted that the government has not been effective in pursuing the KMT's stolen assets, thereby allowing that party ample time to defend or liquidate them. His admission is no more than the public deserve.

Although Chen placed considerable emphasis on the importance of clean government, he retains a number of people of dubious character around him and failed to satisfactorily address the question of Presidential Office staff playing the stock market during office hours.

His promise to establish a government ethics and anti-corruption office under the Ministry of Justice, however, is simply adding to the already formidable bureaucracy. If this office is to be established, it should be directly under the Presidential Office. Regardless, the sheer volume of talk and the absence of action on government and other corruption has been acutely disappointing.

A number of Chen's idealistic proposals, such as a referendum on a new constitution, are likely to sustain confrontation between the government and the legislature. But without any clear strategy to have these items appeal to lawmakers, it is likely that 2006 will be yet another year of gridlock, stalling and impotent speeches.

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