The controversies surrounding Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (
In light of the series of alleged scandals implicating leaders including Ma and President Chen Shui-bian (
To begin with, the rules and regulations regarding the use of these special-purpose funds are written ambiguously and riddled with loopholes.
One example is Ma's practice of directly wiring half of his NT$340,000 (US$10,327) monthly mayoral special allowance -- NT$170,000 -- into his personal bank account.
According to the Taipei City Government, this practice is not illegal or prohibited, and is thus perfectly acceptable.
Perhaps the city is right in stating that there are no explicit regulations or rules banning the practice. However, it is necessary to step back and examine the issue from the standpoint of the original purpose of the allowance.
The special allowance fund is supposed to be used for expenses incurred while performing mayoral duties. It is not intended to subsidize a mayor's wages. From a legal standpoint, once the money is wired into the Taipei mayor's account, it becomes his or her personal responsibility. No one else can make use of the fund without the mayor's approval.
Thus, even if Ma faithfully used the money for its intended purpose, because he has co-mingled the fund with his personal account, it is difficult to establish whether he was using his own money or the special fund to pay for his own expenses.
This explains why in many other countries, regulations often explicitly prohibit the co-mingling of public and personal funds.
Another issue centers on whether Ma should be able to keep the unspent portion of the special allowance fund, and again, there are no explicit regulations governing this practice.
However, it is almost unthinkable that this silence should be interpreted as allowing Ma -- or any other government official -- to pocket the left-over money, which is supposed to be spent for job-related purposes and not for personal use. It is truly puzzling why the existing regulations are silent on such important matters.
Finally, there is the alleged use by Ma's aides of "borrowed receipts" to submit reimbursement claims from the other half of his special allowance. If these allegations were substantiated, it would constitute a clear case of forgery.
The borrowed receipts reportedly came from a wide variety of sources, including members of Ma's office who apparently "contributed" their own receipts in a rather casual manner. This is comparable with the way in which receipts were collected and borrowed from a wide variety of sources to claim reimbursement from Chen's "state affairs fund," -- a case that led to the indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and three presidential aides.
Unfortunately, Ma and Chen's controversial use of such funds are not isolated and random.
A good portion, if not the majority, of Taiwan's officials would likely have difficulty in proving they used special expense funds for the purpose designated.
Anyone who has ever worked for the government or semi-governmental agency should know that the practice of borrowing receipts for reimbursement is a fairly common practice.
But it is also a fairly corrupt practice that should have been banned long ago. It is sincerely hoped that the recent probes into the use of special allowance funds will effectively lead to their abolishment.
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
Asked whether he declined to impose sanctions against China, US President Donald Trump said: “Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal... [W]hen you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot.” It was not a proud moment for Trump or the US. Yet, just three days later, John Bolton’s replacement as director of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, delivered a powerful indictment of the Chinese communist government and criticized prior administrations’ “passivity” in the face of Beijing’s contraventions of international law
In an opinion piece, Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓) suggested that Taiwan focus its efforts not on making citizens “bilingual,” but on building a robust translation industry, as Japan has done (“The social cost of English education,” June 29, page 6). Although Chang makes some good points — Taiwan could certainly improve its translation capabilities — the nation needs a different sort of pivot: from bilingualism to multilingualism. There are reasons why Japan might not be the most suitable role model for the nation’s language policy. Bluntly put, Japan’s status in the world is unquestioned. The same cannot be said of Taiwan. Many confuse