Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 8 News List

THE LIBERTY TIMES EDITORIAL: Double Ten: Just another pep talk

Friday was the first Double Ten national day celebration since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office. In his national day address, Ma admitted that his Cabinet’s performance over the past four-and-a-half months has not entirely lived up to public expectations, but he offered no apologies for its failings. He did not clearly explain the challenges facing the nation, nor did he propose any tangible solutions.

“We feel deeply the pain of our people caused by the economic downturn,” he said, while attributing the slowdown entirely to the notion that Taiwan could not avoid the effects of the US financial crisis.

His speech was just one more in a string of calls for public confidence. As Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said, it was no more than a collection of empty phrases.

If there is one thing that Taiwan has not been short of recently, it is confidence calls full of empty verbiage. The Cabinet’s performance during its few months in power has been entirely devoid of merit. Consequently, the whole nation is now in peril, the public is suffering and a sense of foreboding prevails.

Ma promised to make the economy the No. 1 priority in his government’s program but, as he admitted in his speech, the economy is sluggish, share prices are falling, prospects are grim, business is difficult and life is hard. Despite the dismal state of the economy, neither Ma nor his appointed financial decision makers are willing to face reality. Instead, all they can offer is one pep talk after another. Unable to change things for the better or set the public’s mind at rest, they are losing credibility fast.

By repeatedly making promises it can’t live up to, Ma’s government has thrown its credibility to the four winds. Take Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄), for example. With the stock market trending downward since Ma took office, Chiu has repeatedly called for public confidence. His basic contention each time has been that the nation’s economic fundamentals remain sound and its long-term prospects are good. Local stocks’ price/earnings ratios are fair, he says, while urging the public to take heart that the government will fulfill its promise of economic growth.

Chiu has said that foreign investors have confidence in Taiwan’s stock market — but that was before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection and pushed the global financial crisis to a new level. Chiu’s calls for confidence have not turned the situation around. Sometimes he has made more than one such call a day, while on other occasions he was compelled to dodge questions from reporters. In the meantime, the TAIEX kept tumbling even faster than those of its neighbors.

The reason why the government’s pep talks have had no effect is quite simple. To install confidence, you need to let the public know what is really going on. Whatever you say to the public needs to be based on reality. If you dodge the issues and depart from reality, the public won’t accept it.

Take the economy, for example. The IMF recently reported that the global economy is entering a period of much lower growth rates. Forecast worldwide growth for next year has been revised down from 3.9 percent to just 3 percent. The government of Singapore has recognized that the city-state is already in recession. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has voiced his concern over the country’s economic outlook on more than one occasion.

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