The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics reported last week that the economy contracted a record 8.36 percent in the final quarter of last year and is forecast to decline by a historic 2.97 percent this year. This gives further weight to the prediction by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research unit of The Economist, in December that the Taiwanese economy could be the sixth-worst performer in the world this year. However, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) doesn’t seem to understand that he should humbly review his performance, own up to his shortcomings and policy mistakes and apologize to the public.
Instead, Ma chose to alienate himself further from the public by declining to attend the Taiwan Citizen Conference on National Affairs organized by the opposition and calling a financial meeting of Cabinet ministers at the Presidential Office in an attempt to compete with the opposition.
Moreover, he considers a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) with China to be a tonic for the sluggish economy without proposing any other effective measures. He has once again wasted another opportunity to include public opinion in his attempts to revive Taiwan’s economy.
When did Taiwan, the creator of an economic miracle, fall behind the rest of the world economically? It is too much to bear to see Taiwan suddenly deprived of its glory and branded with shame. Job opportunities are rapidly decreasing, and even those who manage to keep their jobs feel deeply insecure over reduced salaries and unpaid leave.
An old Taiwanese saying has it that as long as you are willing to be an ox, you don’t need to worry that there will be no fields to plow. However, following Ma’s accession to power, even those who are willing to work cannot necessarily find a job. The global financial crisis did not occur because the Taiwanese public or enterprises made mistakes, so why should Taiwan be the hardest hit?
A closer investigation shows that one major factor was the transfer of political power. In other words, although the global economic crisis has swept every country, Taiwan was hit more severely because of the government’s inability to rule the country and its flawed policy direction. Its wishful decision to sign a CECA with China serves as the ultimate example of these policy mistakes.
If the ruling party only lacked executive capability, it would not have caused such great misfortune because the public would still be able to find their way out by relying on their own wisdom. But if those in power are opinionated and do not admit that their policies are flawed, they could lead the country to destruction.
Many foreign investment institutions have predicted that Taiwan’s economy will contract this year, with some saying this is because of Taiwan’s excessive dependence on China and that Ma’s relaxation of cross-strait policies to curry favor with China is of no practical use in boosting the economy.
However, not only has Ma failed to examine the disadvantages of depending on China, but he also thinks that Taiwan must sign an economic agreement with China within the “one China” framework to achieve eventual unification.
Even though Ma has time and again denied that signing an economic pact with China will trade away Taiwan’s sovereignty and promised that he will not allow Chinese produce and workers into Taiwan, signing an agreement would make it difficult for Taiwan to unilaterally ban the influx of Chinese products and workers. It is clear that the government has engaged in closed-door political talks with China on the matter.