Let’s look back to the time when, in late 2000, the then-ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government flip-flopped on its policy over the construction of Nuclear Power Plant No. 4.
That controversy, along with many other ensuing gaffes, not only hurt the credibility of then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, but also, directly or indirectly, brought about political casualties including the resignation of then-premier Tang Fei (唐飛) and his successor, Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄).
The Chen administration’s flip-flopping had often invited criticism and was denounced as “irresponsible, unprofessional and incompetent,” which was one of the reasons for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election victory in March 2008.
The message being sent during the last presidential election was that people were fed up with an irresponsible, unprofessional and incompetent government and hoped for a new president to make changes.
But, judging from its performance in the past two years, has the Ma administration brought about any changes?
After the controversial relaxation of regulations on beef imports including cow tongues this week, the Cabinet once again finalized its decision without consulting with its own ministries or the general public after Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday pledged further deliberations about the ban on cow tongues — two days after his health ministry officials endorsed the ban.
The health department’s healthcare premium hike policy is another example.
Less than a year ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs either took the liberty or was instructed by its superiors to reject foreign rescue teams that had offered to come to the aid of mudslide victims after Typhoon Morakot battered southern Taiwan — signs that the Ma government’s diplomats were either living in an ivory tower or were apathetic to disaster victims’ plight.
Furthermore, as early as late 2008, the Cabinet under former premier Liu Chao-shiuan’s (劉兆玄) leadership remained indecisive about the regulations and standards on dairy products and raw materials, some of which contained melamine and thus put people’s lives at risk.
Despite these numerous missteps which Ma’s government has made so far, it is probably too early to jump to the conclusion that the incumbent government is “irresponsible, unprofessional and incompetent,” since it still has two more years to improve its performance.
But along the way, what’s really getting in people’s hair is that the administration has not learned any lessons from its past missteps and continues to repeat the same mistakes over and over again with its arrogant and top-down way of thinking.
If this is the case, what can people expect from the Ma government in what remains of its term?
No matter how much the Ma government has achieved or will achieve in warming ties with China, a head of state’s ability to better people’s welfare and lives should be considered his or her priority.
So let’s pray the Ma administration will soon pull itself together and improve its inter-ministerial coordination to prevent any further policy-making missteps.