On Jan. 14, when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won re-election, he promised to lend an ear to public opinion and to draw up “policies that are truly beneficial to the people.”
“I understand many people harbor a higher expectation for us, hoping that aside from attending to the needs of the underprivileged, we would also attach importance to fair allocation of resources, narrowing the wealth gap ... and how to help them realize their ‘Taiwanese Dream,’” Ma said in his victory speech.
“We will also attach great importance to how the government’s policies are received by the public. We will review, improve and — if necessary — stop, if particular policies receive a lot of criticism from the people … I will listen attentively to everyone’s opinion and humbly proceed with needed reforms,” he said.
Ma is a little less than a month away from his second-term inauguration and yet already it appears that he has forgotten his solemn victory pledges.
First, mere days after his re-election, the Ma government publicized its plans to ease the ban on imports of US beef products containing ractopamine residue. Despite critics accusing the government of endangering public health with the planned relaxation, and government officials saying they held no fixed position on the issue and the government did not have a timetable for easing the ban, all signs pointed the other way. The government disregarded the public’s opposition as it persisted in touting the benefits that a relaxation of the ban would bring.
Then there came the blitz of fuel and electricity price increases. The price hikes will put more financial pressure on average households, not to mention the underprivileged who are already struggling to make ends meet. So much for Ma’s talk of attending to the needs of the underprivileged. Nowhere in the government’s announcements on the price hikes have there been any supplementary measures designed to lower the impact on those who will bear the brunt of the policies.
Even Ma’s supporters are fuming. Aside from a recent poll suggesting that 13 percent of people who voted for Ma on Jan. 14 are now regretting it, individual investors — many of whom were generally seen as supporters of Ma, attracted by his campaign promises of having the TAIEX break 10,000 points — are now irate over the administration’s proposed capital gains tax.
Panning the proposal as a hasty plan that would only achieve superficial, fragmentary fairness while reducing stock liquidity, the group is planning on taking its frustration to the streets because officials ignored their voices in government-sponsored meetings.
It is unbelievable that the government, under Ma’s leadership, has managed to anger so many people on both sides of the aisle. Even more horrific is that Ma still has four more years in office.
Nobody says reform is easy, but what sort of reform it is when it appears as if the government’s so-called reform fails to truly address social fairness and care for the underprivileged?
As head of state, Ma is supposed to hear and heed people’s voices, but what is happening now makes it clear that Ma is simply turning a deaf ear.
In view of the government’s seemingly arbitrary and capricious actions and obliviousness to the public, Taiwanese are left with no option but to take to the street to make their voices heard.