During the presidential debate on Saturday last week, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) quoted a whole load of figures.
The first thing to say about these numbers is that Taiwan’s average annual economic growth rate during Ma’s tenure up to now has been a mere 3.24 percent — much lower than the 4.4 percent average during the eight years in which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held the reins of government.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s lead over Taiwan in GDP per capita grew on average from US$1,754 in 2008 to US$2,467 last year. One of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) favorite slogans used to be: “If South Korea can do it, why can’t Taiwan?” Nowadays, perhaps we should be saying “[South Korean President] Lee Myung-bak can do it, but Ma Ying-jeou really can’t.”
The second point is that the average unemployment rate of 5.1 percent during Ma’s tenure is higher than the 4.2 percent average during the DPP’s eight years in government.
And then there is the fact that most people in employment now are either threatened with forced unpaid leave or are in atypical employment, not to mention that wages have fallen back to the levels of 13 years ago in real terms.
Foreign direct investment, the best indicator of an economy’s competitiveness, slid from a peak of US$15.4 billion in 2007 to a new low of US$3.8 billion last year.
Evidently, talk of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) attracting overseas investment is as fallacious as the promise that Taiwan’s stock index would attain the 20,000-point mark.
Let us also consider how disadvantaged groups are faring.
During the three-and-a-half years of Ma’s administration, the hardship index (unemployment plus inflation) has reached 6.28 percent, compared with 5.15 percent during the DPP’s eight years in office — a difference of more than 1 percent.
The total number of low to medium-income households has risen by 23,755 since 2008, compared with the rise of 24,215 between 2000 and 2007. Ma has been in office for less than four years, but the increase in the number of such households in this time is equal to the increase in the whole eight years of DPP administration.
Now let’s look at the average annual income of farmers’ households. In 2007, it was NT$937,000, but by last year it had fallen to NT$885,000. Recently, the KMT legislative caucus spent an excessive amount of money on advertisements declaring how well Taiwanese agricultural products were selling overseas.
It does make one wonder — if they are really all that caring — why it is that farmers’ incomes are not increasing and are, on the contrary, falling?
Finally, there is the way cross-strait relations are developing.
Ma relies so much on China economically and in terms of foreign relations, it’s difficult for the government not to cede ground in political matters in return. It won’t be long before cross-strait talks will be based not on equal status and mutual respect, but solely on the “one China” principle, with none of the “each side having its own interpretation” of the so-called “1992 consensus,” either.
Now that Europe is in the grip of a severe sovereign debt crisis, Taiwanese industry is in decline and China continues to rise, Taiwan is sure to be faced with some very difficult challenges.
Ma truly thinks he is doing a superb job, but the truth is that he is incompetent and not above telling untruths to conceal that fact.