Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Farmers bear brunt of an inept government

By Steve Wang 王思為

Speaking at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting last week, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) warned politicians against using the issue of an oversupply of agricultural produce to feed the media with false information that could trigger price fluctuations, which would be disadvantageous to exports and harm local farmers.

This cheap shot at the opposition, designed to clear the Ma administration of responsibility for the plummeting prices, demonstrates just how inactive and thick-headed his government is.

If pan-green politicians could actually drive down the price of produce just by opening their mouths, they would indeed be mightier than the “invisible hand” economists like to talk about. If such a feat were truly possible, it would then also logically follow that Ma should be able to reverse the downward spiral. He would just have to open his golden presidential mouth and the pro-government media would certainly cooperate and spread his word around the clock.

Surely this would immediately cause the prices of agricultural goods to shoot up and allow farmers to laugh all the way to the bank.

However, if Ma were not able to drive prices up, then there could only be two explanations. One is that Ma is so incompetent that no one believes anything that he says and his only chance to get any attention is when the opposition criticizes him. The other is that he is so incompetent that he cannot even follow his own logic and realize that if the opposition can drive down prices with their words, then he should be able to likewise push them up.

In dealing with the recent fruit surplus, Ma’s solution was very passive. Instead of actively helping farmers market and sell the surplus internationally and offering them immediate economic relief, he simply asked farmers to let their land lie fallow.

Ma’s incompetent solution is in stark contrast to that of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who proposed 1.65 billion euros (US$2.37 billion) in assistance for the troubled French agricultural sector in October 2009. Sarkozy’s aid package included 1 billion euros in low-interest bank loans and 650 million euros in state spending on oil subsidies, tax relief and agricultural insurance.

Sarkozy also emphasized that farming was part of the French national identity, which is based on the special relationship between the land and the people living on it. He said agriculture was part of the French soul and that the two were inseparable.

In this instance, Sarkozy illustrates a president who actually identifies with the soil beneath his feet, one who naturally expresses an irreplaceable, strong sentiment for his country’s agricultural traditions and one who actively defends those traditions, instead of treating farming as some sort of lost industry, isolating farmers and leaving them to work themselves to death.

It would, of course, be completely preposterous for the nation to put such hopes in a person who won’t even admit he is Taiwanese.

Steve Wang is an advisory committee member of Taiwan Thinktank.


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