Taiwan’s new course
In a discussion and review of former US president Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural address, I have come to realize that the contents have coincided with the development of Taiwan in a holistic and global context, and more specifically, amid the current global upheaval.
In his speech, Reagan pinpointed several thought-provoking issues, such as “economic ills,” “education,” “government,” “unemployment rate” and “heroic dreams.”
These social, economic, political and educational issued are pervasive all over the world today, especially in Taiwan during the current campaign for next month’s presidential election.
A nation’s foundation is its economy, which has a close connection to public infrastructure, retirement benefits, social welfare and health insurance.
Let’s take inventory of Taiwan’s economic situation.
The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The rich are able to buy more than one luxurious house, while poor people have to work very hard to make ends meet. Some people cannot even find a job to raise their families.
The government should plan social welfare policies without damaging the economy. It can cut unnecessary spending from the budget of its institutions.
For example, the Greater Taichung Council spends NT$9 million (US$296,000) a year for the lunch boxes handed out at council meetings. They should give that money to people who cannot afford a lunch instead of public servants.
Taiwan’s educational problems stem from a system that spoonfeeds students to help them receive the highest possible scores on college and high-school entrance exams. This erodes students’ practical learning and stifles much of their creativity.
Another problem is that many parents are unable to afford tuition. The government should make money available to families who cannot afford tuition. With a good education, students from poor families could obtain higher-paying jobs.
Also, the government should help students who are not interested in learning from textbooks, but who are interested in developing other abilities. For example, students could learn how to be chefs, bakers, designers or hairdressers. Education needs to change its focus from entrance exams, to the development of minds.
Last, but not least, the government should be downsized.
“Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people,” Reagan said in his inaugural address.
The government is composed of an elite group, to whom the public bestows the power to decide national affairs, to make laws and to enhance the welfare for all Taiwanese.
However, the government neglects to hear the voice of the public. Taiwan does not have to spend NT$200 million in one day to celebrate a national holiday; it should spend that money to help disadvantaged families, elderly people who live alone and orphans.
Each presidential candidate should clearly define strategies and policies of how to solve the problems of the nation’s educational system and economic crisis, rather than wasting their efforts on attacking each other. Taiwan needs innovative and visionary leaders to safeguard its future.
No matter which party is elected, it must strive for economic and political reforms. The government should prioritize the public’s welfare and derive the maximum benefit from a limited budget.
If Taiwan wants to change, Taiwanese must act now.