Fri, Dec 23, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Ma’s land policies aimed at the ‘1%’

By Chan Shun-kuei 詹順貴

Democracy is supposed to mean government of the people, by the people and for the people, but President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his team are governing this country in the sole interests of the wealthy.

As Nobel economics prize winner Joseph Stiglitz says of the US, it is government “of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent,” where everything works for the benefit of the 1 percent of rich and powerful businesspeople at the very top of the economic pyramid.

Thus, while the Ma administration seemed to be responding to seething popular resentment when it announced that it would push for the enactment or amendment of five laws related to justice in housing, these laws actually do little to promote justice. The newly enacted and amended laws offer nothing of any substance, the government having gone through the motions for the sake of appearance.

Where Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) had promised that the government’s proposed amendments to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) would compete freely with those proposed by civic groups, in the end, Ma and Wu’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did not dare allow the articles to be debated one by one in the legislature. Instead, it mobilized its lawmakers to sneakily push the draft act straight to its second reading. Farmers, young people and members of the Taiwan Rural Front held a continuous street protest on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13. For the first time in the two years of the current stage of the farmers’ movement, fierce clashes broke out, but in the end the protests were to no avail.

Civic groups wanted to see comprehensive measures instituted to restrain the kind of runaway expropriations that have become commonplace in Taiwan. They wanted regulations put in place to stop fertile farmland from being easily expropriated for use by major construction projects, unrestrained by any kind of standard. They also wanted a system to be set up for holding public hearings so that people whose land is under threat of expropriation can air their views, which naturally tend to be different from the way government departments see things. However, the Ma administration hardly accepted any of these ideas.

One extraordinary excuse I have heard for not holding public hearings is that the Ministry of the Interior does not have enough staff to set them up.

Even the proposed amendment that there should be a record of why applications for land expropriation are approved — something that has a great bearing on people’s lives, property and work — was simply dismissed by the government.

Ma keeps talking about how expropriated land should be purchased at market value, but the task of assessing land market value remains under the control of evaluation committees that are in the hands of local governments. In its version of the amendment, the government refused to change the system to let licensed professional real-estate assessors estimate the value of the land instead. In short, the government version is just old wine in a new bottle.

The crafty and sly nature of Ma’s government team was clearly revealed on the evening of Dec. 13, when the KMT caucus put forward a provisional proposal with regard to the newly amended Article 30 of the Land Expropriation Act, which stipulates that expropriated land should be purchased at the so-called market price. Most unusually, the provisional motion was that the Cabinet should set a separate date for this article to come into effect, instead of letting it come into effect the day after the president’s proclamation of the amended act, as is the usual practice. This is just one example of how the government has been playing tricks from beginning to end.

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