The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics’ figures show exports totaled US$24.3 billion in March, a 23 percent increase from the same period one year ago, while imports totaled US$24.1 billion, 37 percent more than last year. Export totals from January to March were 17 percent higher than the previous year, while imports increased by 26 percent.
With the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) rule coming to a close, the economy is in good shape. However, the party has suffered consecutive defeats in the legislative and presidential elections. The primary reason is a spate of scandals over the past two years. The recent diplomatic scandal has caused the resignations of the vice premier, foreign minister and deputy national defense minister, just two weeks before the end of their terms. Although the courts have not yet ruled on most of the corruption cases, media reporting, prosecutors’ investigations and the resulting indictments were sufficient to consign the DPP to its political grave.
A deeper analysis of economic and political indicators of the DPP’s rule starting from 2000 reveals that there were signs of deterioration at the outset. After one or two years, however, the situation turned around. The GNP did once register a growth rate of minus 2.17 percent, but it went up the following year, and during the final year of DPP rule the growth rate was 5.7 percent. Export and import statistics also reveal a decline during the first two years followed by a continuous increase. Consumer spending indicators show an initial short-term decline followed by long-term continuous growth. Overall, the economy went through a positive turnaround.
The only exception to this trend was government spending, which hardly grew during those seven years. In fact, it even showed signs of declining. This was primarily the result of obstruction by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) controlled legislature. The DPP could not break the deadlock and was forced to implement its budget in an environment where government spending levels were frozen.
As for political indicators, we see a similar turning point in terms of the public’s political attitudes. According to research by the National Chengchi University Election Study Center, public attitudes toward democracy declined markedly after the DPP assumed power in 2000, but rose afterward.
One of the statements presented to respondents was: “If the government is regularly checked by the legislature, it would be impossible for it to perform any major actions.” From 1983 to 1998, respondents disagreeing with this statement increased from 24 percent to 40 percent. But in 2001 there was a sudden drop to 28 percent, and three years after it increased to 34 percent.
Respondents who disagreed with the statement, “The presence of many political parties will influence political stability” rose from 24 percent in 1983 to 53 percent in 1995. In 1988, while the KMT was still in power, that number fell to 48 percent. The figure continued to drop to 35 percent after the DPP took over. However, in 2004 it showed an increase to 41 percent. Even public attitudes toward government limits on free speech were initially conservative but then opened up.
Objective economic indicators and the public’s democratic views show that during the DPP’s rule an initial deterioration was followed by long-term improvement. In terms of overall political and economic development trends, there was hope for the party. But the DPP still lost. Besides the corruption scandals, the DPP’s performance was below par; many proposals ended up being just words without actions. In addition, vicious infighting inflicted mortal wounds upon the party, leading to a game-ending defeat.