Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The whole has many parts

For the last two days we have discussed President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year's address and affirmed his stance of reining in cross-strait economic liberalization and his proposal for a referendum on a new constitution.

Everyone can talk the talk, but the real question is: Can Chen walk the walk?

The situation, hopefully, will not degenerate into something similar to what inspired former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to say about the ruling party: "The Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] government is just like my bad back: it's always going out of place."

By all means, kudos should be extended to Chen for his reiteration of the principle of sovereignty, the DPP's core values and adopting a more aggressive position on cross-strait economic policy (albeit with cumbersome slogans): moving from an "active opening, effective management" approach to "active management, effective opening."

People are no fools, however. No matter how eloquent or grating a politician's speech may be, the public knows all too well what games are being played.

Rather than indulging in flowery word games and coining catchy slogans to get their supporters' blood racing, what Taiwanese really care about is what the government can do to ensure that they can maintain a better standard of living.

What a struggling father of three in some remote countryside cares about is whether he will have enough money in his account to pay for his kids' tuition in the coming semester. What a working single mom cares about is whether she can count on arriving home safely after doing her night shift at a factory.

In other words, practical stuff. What about the new pension plan that Chen spoke of before the local government elections, which he pledged would replace the 18 percent preferential interest rate that he said had been unfairly benefiting retired teachers, military personnel and civil servants? Who knows?

Then there are other social issues, such as the growing suicide rate among young people, which could do with a bit more conspicuous attention. The impression that the average person receives, however, is that, more often than not, government officials and lawmakers would rather appear busy locking horns than solving real problems.

The power awarded to political representatives by the people is not a plaything for fame or license to engage in a bitter war of words or to court media deference in the next day's papers.

Social issues, as minor as any single issue may seem, are what touch people's hearts, earn the government respect and therefore earn this nation respect as a democratic country.

While policies relating to cross-strait relations, economics, defense and foreign affairs are critical and have a direct bearing on national security, the "little things" can add up in a surprisingly damaging way for those politicians who neglect them.

As another year begins, this country is surely looking forward to a government that can attend to not only the bigger picture but also -- through more substantial acts involving subtle problems -- start reconnecting and touching people's hearts.

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