Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Improving legislative productivity

By Kuei Hung-chen 桂宏誠

From media pundits to the general public, many people are voicing their hopes for increased efficiency in the new legislature. As its name indicates, the legislature should create legislation, but looking at the history of advanced democracies, creating legislation is actually a secondary role. Even so, since Taiwanese expect the legislature to focus more on the business of creating legislation, the legislature must find a means to increase efficiency.

It is important to first clarify the fact that the term guohui (國會) is a translation from the English term "parliament." Originally, parliament referred to talking or holding a discussion and eventually the definition was extended to incorporate the meetings where these activities took place. Hence "parliament" originally referred to a place for debate and thought, or a forum for evaluating policy and political issues. In reality, the function of parliaments in advanced democracies is to legalize government policy, provide a channel of communication, monitor government behavior and foster political leaders. These functions are perceived as being more important than formulating legislation.

A parliament was formed just after the founding of the Republic of China. Later, with experience of failed parliamentary politics, Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) brought about parliamentary reform by creating a constitutional division of government into five branches. Within Sun's political framework, legislative power is a function of the government that needs to be entrusted to particularly able individuals. Hence legislators are not equal to the "parliamentarians" of the National Assembly in the early years of the Republic.

And yet the formation and duties of the legislature has incorporated the role of the National Assembly even though it has formally adhered to the division of power and the five branches of government defined in the Constitution.

During the Martial Law era, legislators were not pressured by constituencies, but also didn't have the ability to intervene in government policy. However, their efficiency in creating legislation outstripped the legislature after democratization.

Currently, legislative elections are carried out under a single district method and the number of legislators has been reduced to 113. Although the influence of individual legislators has increased, the lack of professionalism and an increasingly localized focus remain problems.

Therefore the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which possesses almost three-quarters of the legislative seats, needs to not only reinforce policy research in the future, but also to take advantage of the single district format that is beneficial to raising party discipline. The KMT can no longer escape political responsibility for the effectiveness of the seventh legislature.

Another factor affecting inefficiency is the system of "parliamentary assistants," which refers not only to the assistants of legislators hired using private or public funds, but also includes bureaucrats within the legislature whose job it is to do research, formulate legislative drafts and provide other political information.

In the US, with its tripartite division of power, those employed within Congress and civil servants within the executive belong to separate bodies and are not qualified for transfers to executive branch positions. Hence they can play the role of bureaucrats opposing the executive. At the same time, plentiful resources and great numbers allow them to proactively provide consulting and legislative research services.

This story has been viewed 3926 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top