Is it me, or has everyone taken leave of their senses ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday? Either that or they started on the kaoliang a week early.
Pre-holiday tension can be the only explanation for the erratic behavior of Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) this week. OK, so he had a reasonably stressful few days following the distribution of consumer vouchers, but that is no excuse for mood swings that a menopausal amah would be proud of.
First, on Sunday, there was Liao the Soothing Soothsayer.
I’m not sure whether there are tortoise shells over at the interior ministry for divination purposes, but how else could one explain Liao’s uncanny skill at predicting how many people would turn out to pick up their vouchers?
On Sunday night, Liao told a press conference at around 9pm that he was confident that around 91.3 percent of vouchers would be collected. Lo and behold, two hours later the final figures came through at 91.29 percent.
Note to self: Remember to talk to Minister Liao before deciding which team to put money on for the 2010 soccer World Cup.
Next up, there was Liao the Painfully Obvious.
While talking about the great voucher giveaway on Sunday, Liao came out with this: “The figures show that there’s overwhelming public support for our consumer voucher program.”
No shit, Sherlock. Who’d have thought that people would be in favor of what seems like a big wad of free money?
What will we learn next from Mr Liao? That the pope wears a silly hat? Or that pandas shit in the zoo?
Then came Liao the Irresponsible.
“I’d like to urge everyone to please spend extra money when using your vouchers to stimulate the economy,” he said.
Encouraging people to go out and spend money like there is no tomorrow when many are struggling to make ends meet and when the nation is suffering from an unprecedented number of layoffs, forced unpaid leave and a raft of other economic problems is not exactly a responsible thing to do.
But then, we don’t all have hefty special allowances. What we do have is a president who came to power peddling 6 percent annual GDP but who is now looking at minus 3 percent (if we are to believe The Economist Intelligence Unit).
Then, on Tuesday, when the dust had settled and it became apparent that a few million NT dollars in vouchers had been “mislaid,” Liao the Luvvy came to the fore, sobbing his way through a press conference while offering to cover the total of the mystery missing vouchers from his own pocket.
What a pity that the Golden Globes were last week, because Liao’s tear duct virtuosity would have given double gong winner Kate Winslet a run for her money.
What happened to those missing vouchers is anybody’s guess, but I’m sure the United Daily News will have a story next week detailing how former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) snapped up all the missing vouchers after putting collection center staff under a voodoo spell before flying off on her broomstick to Paris to spend all the money on designer clothes and jewelry.
While we’re on the subject of the former first family, I’m surprised that our captive former prez Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was allowed to receive vouchers at all. I wouldn’t have put it past his bewigged nemesis, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅), to propose an Act Ensuring Former Independence Supporting Presidents Who Are Now In Detention Center Don’t Get Consumer Vouchers (支持台獨的前總統在看守所裡拿不到消費券法) to make sure Chen didn’t benefit from the scheme.
Still, the way things are going, Chen’s vouchers may expire before he gets a chance to use them.
Amid all the consumer kafuffle, the star prize for stupidest comment relating to the voucher spectacular has to go to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who on Tuesday offered further proof — as if any more were needed — that he lives in a little world of his own.
He said: “The world is watching” Taiwan as the first country to issue consumer vouchers in a bid to stimulate its economy.
Sorry to rain on your parade, Mr President, but I believe the world was rather more focused on events in Washington’s National Mall.
Obamamania was in full flow this week as the new US president was inaugurated in what many journos termed an “electric” atmosphere around the US capital.
Even the Taiwanese delegation got into the spirit, with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), KMT blue-blood Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) and colleague Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) giving the trademark Taiwanese two-fingered salute when having their photo taken before the ceremony.
Ke’ai, ke’ai and ke’ai.
All the excitement in the world, however, couldn’t prevent life-and-soul-of-the-party Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) from falling asleep during a post-inauguration function. Now there’s a man who knows just how invigorating historic occasions can be.
While the rest of the world — bar Hau — was going crazy over Barack Obama, Taipei’s residents were preparing for their own Chicom-approved version of the phenomenon, Pandamonium, which will hit Muzha during next week’s holiday when the bamboo-chomping unificationists hold their coming out ball.
The city government announced last week that there will be a 1.3km exclusion zone around the zoo, while nearby parking fees will be raised to NT$60 per hour.
Wait a minute … I thought they said the pandas were not meant to be a money-making venture?
The only advice I can offer for anyone like me who just wants to enjoy a peaceful Lunar New Year in Taipei is this: Don’t set foot within 5km of the zoo.
As for me, there will be no column next Saturday, because I will be taking a well-earned rest in Taitung with a few of my friends from military service days. We might even form a search party to hunt for my beloved Cathy Pacific down there on Green Island.
You’ll recognize us if you’re in the area: We’ll be the ones lying on a beach at sunset with a cold Taiwan Beer in one hand and a set of binoculars in the other.
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