Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: I really can’t voucher for our sanity

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

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.

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