“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ [危機] is composed of two characters — one represents danger and the other represents opportunity,” former US president John F. Kennedy once said.
After a series of recent government policy announcements that have prompted many to worry about the nation’s future and wonder where President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is leading Taiwanese, concerned citizens might look to the quote and think optimistically that all is not as hopeless as it seems.
Taiwanese have good reason for being anxious about the future and the nation’s well-being. For one, despite the discovery of a new case of mad cow disease in California late last month, the Ma administration shows no sign of softening its stance on its plan to conditionally relax the ban on imported US beef containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, something that could potentially pose a health risk to consumers.
Then there was the government’s decision to allow fuel and electricity price increases, which further rubbed salt into the wounds of the many who have suffered the sting of stagnant salaries and a rising cost of living in recent years. The inevitable rise in retail prices has led many people to worry how the rising cost of living might further contribute to the list of family tragedies that have been served up at the newsstands in recent months.
Anyone who put their faith in Ma’s government, thinking it would eventually come up with something beneficial to the public, has had their hopes dashed — Ma, in an interview late last month, said he does not have to curry favor with voters now he has been re-elected.
It sends a chill down the spine to think the president could be so arrogant as to say such a thing in public.
As if this were not bad enough, data from the National Debt Clock, released on Monday, showed the country’s national debt has increased to about NT$5.23 trillion (US$178 billion) as of the end of last month — the sixth monthly increase in a row.
Fortunately, although Ma may no longer need to cozy up to voters, lawmakers still do.
Lawmakers of all parties need to be responsive to their constituencies. They must all heed the concerns, frustrations and grievances of voters in their respective constituencies if they hope to be re-elected in the next round of legislative elections.
This was seen on Monday when the Cabinet’s proposal to relax restrictions on imports of US beef products containing ractopamine residues was voted on by the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cheng Ru-fen (鄭汝芬), who opposes relaxing the ban, did not show up at the meeting, providing a good example of how Taiwanese, through exerting pressure on lawmakers, could still force the government to serve the public interest.
Ma may choose to remain oblivious to the people’s voice, now that there is no prospect of him having to run in an election again. However, the question all lawmakers who aspire to another term must ask themselves is: Do they want people’s votes in the next legislative election?
If the answer is yes, they are advised to search their conscience — and not simply follow the directions of their party chairman — when they cast their vote in the legislature on issues that matter to the nation and its people’s interests and well-being.