Sat, Jan 02, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Promises, promises — but where is the loot?

By Lu I-mi 呂一銘

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has pledged several times to divest the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of its assets and donate the proceeds to charity.

This, however, falls far short of the public’s expectations. Returning these stolen assets to the national treasury would be the correct way of displaying how determined the party is to reform.

Since Ma has made it clear that the party will rely on donations for funding in accordance with the Political Donation Act (政治獻金法), he could even win praise by acting with grace and resolving the matter as soon as possible.

Let’s put aside the messy accounts of the three KMT-affiliated companies — China Television Company, Central Pictures Corporation and Broadcasting Corporation of China — because no one understands them. Also, is there anyone who can get his head around what is happening with the party’s NT$20 billion (US$625 million) sale of the Central Investment Holding Co?

After deducting party operation costs of NT$18 billion, the party will be left with only NT$2 billion. Saying that the party will donate this sum to welfare is a complete joke.

Ma pretends he does not know what is going on and plays number games while ignoring public demands for the party to return its assets to the treasury.

For example, initial party estimates show that the KMT needs in excess of NT$1.5 billion a year to cover personnel and associated costs, including about NT$700 million for retirement funds for party members and administration; about NT$600 million to cover the salaries of current staff; and about NT$200 million for miscellaneous costs.

The KMT says it has a three-phase plan for handling party assets and that it expects to complete the sale of Central Investment Holding Co before June. It has also said it will reduce staff in one sweeping move.

Who is interested in the finer details of the KMT’s housekeeping? Citing all these numbers is simply a way of pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Political parties in democratic nations cannot own businesses. This is essential to preventing unfair competition. With the KMT’s advantage as the ruling party, there is no need for them to worry about raising funds.

Following Taiwan’s democratization and economic liberalization, KMT assets have been the focus of widespread criticism. Because of the party’s procrastination, its billions in assets have gradually disappeared thanks to a lack of clear legislation.

In no time, these assets have evaporated; all that remains is the Central Investment Holding Co.

Now the party is getting even craftier and wants us to believe that it only has NT$2 billion to donate to charity after deducting party expenses. Who believes this nonsense?

This is Ma’s second time around as KMT chairman; both times he has promised to return the party’s assets.

There have also been recent reports that he would release a final plan for handling the issue, but these were referring only to a list of principles and guidelines.

So, when the KMT talks about eliminating party assets, it really means liquidating them or shifting them to people or groups with close ties to the KMT and claiming that the party has no more interest in the matter.

The only way to dispel public doubt and handle the issue correctly is to return the money to the treasury.

Lu I-ming is the former publisher and president of Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News.

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