Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - Page 8 News List

THE LIBERTY TIMES EDITORIAL: Working like a broken calculator

It didn’t take President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration long to fall foul of public opinion after a catalogue of errors early on. It seems that nothing Ma does is enough to restore his reputation to its former glory.

If you were to look for an explanation, you could do worse than putting it down to the government’s apparent indifference to what the public wants: To give up on its pro-China strategy; to do more to support local industry; and to create jobs.

Ma seems to be content just to snuggle up to China and mouth banalities while blaming the previous administration and the current international situation for his failings. There is a Taiwanese saying that goes, “men over 40 are like a broken record” — which admirably sums up the current administration. It’s right on the money. And although this broken-record government might be fooling some for the time being, everyone is bound to see through it before long.

And just like a broken record, you’re not going to hear anything from this government but the same old arguments it tenaciously clings to. Ask it to do something concrete to create jobs or support industry and you’ll get little by way of response. If, however, you are to suggest fawning over China or giving away more than you have to, the government cannot control its excitement.

Because the government is incompetent and obsessed with face and spin, it immediately reacts negatively when its incompetence and lies rise to the surface, preferring to fly into a tantrum rather than actually admitting that the fault might be its own. This exaggerated reaction is merely bluff and bluster to cover up its guilt and it causes it to lose even more of the public’s trust and respect.

The government thinks nothing of alarming the public in its efforts to promote an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), claiming earlier this year that Taiwan’s economy would be marginalized after the ASEAN-China free trade zone had come into effect. Ministry of Finance figures regarding exports to ASEAN countries in the first quarter of this year have shown those claims simply do not hold water. Not only has the volume of exports not fallen, it is actually the second-highest figure for this quarter in any year since data began to be recorded.

Clearly, rumors of Taiwan’s ASEAN-induced marginalization are greatly exaggerated. This is an objective fact borne out by hard statistics; we’re not massaging the numbers to arrive at a desired conclusion. Tell that to the officials of this broken-record government, who insist that Taiwan’s export competitiveness is declining, citing the fact that over the past nine years the growth rate of Taiwanese exports to ASEAN countries has fallen relative to those of our competitors, China and South Korea.

Minister Without Portfolio Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) threw in his own two cents, even though he is no longer minister of economic affairs, pointing out that during that same period, from 2001 to last year, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN merely doubled, compared with those of China, which increased almost five-fold.

Yiin published an article to support his point. When the ASEAN-China free trade framework agreement was signed in 2002, he wrote, it included an “early harvest” list, with the signatories enjoying the gradual introduction of tariff reductions, the effects of which were felt some time ago. It wasn’t as if the benefits only started when the agreement came into effect this past January.

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