Politics cannot function well without responsibility and there has been a gradual erosion of this element in Taiwanese politics, with the level of responsibility decreasing steadily under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.
On Friday night, the administration demanded the legislature hold a provisional session this week to vote on a bill that would allow the import of beef containing residue of the livestock feed additive ractopamine after the legislative session ended earlier that day without a vote on the issue.
The decision, made in a three-hour meeting between the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is the latest attempt by the Ma administration to ask the KMT legislative caucus to execute government policy and pass the bill despite widespread opposition.
The legislature has been paralyzed for a week over the pan-green camp’s protest against a vote on the bill, and the provisional session — which is to deal solely with the beef issue — is likely to spark another round of conflict between the two camps and end without any progress being made.
Ma has come under fire for interfering with legislative affairs by asking the KMT caucus to pass the bill by the end of this legislative session. However, both the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan avoided taking responsibility for this by saying that the provisional session was proposed by the caucus, and that the government would be supportive of the caucus’ proposal, as if it had not been their decision.
Besides stalling the bill on US beef imports, the malfunctioning legislature also failed to handle many other major bills such as the review of National Communications Commission nominees and the capital gains tax proposal. Only 15 bills were passed in this legislative session, the lowest number in 17 years.
With the nation paying a steep price for a paralyzed legislature, the only apology offered by the Ma administration was one put forward by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who apologized for the poor record in the session and called for rational policy debates. Ma, who should work to solve the deadlock and improve communication with opposition parties, chose instead to deepen the confrontation by insisting on passing the beef bill by any means necessary.
The shirking of responsibility was especially evident when Ma defended the government’s fuel price hike right before there was a major decline in the global price of oil, saying it was difficult for the government to foresee the decline in oil prices because “things are unpredictable.”
The government has also failed to take responsibility for the policy to increase electricity prices and Ma and the Cabinet have instead blamed state-owned Taiwan Power Corp for its poor performance.
This habit of dodging responsibility is also present at local government levels. In the wake of Tuesday’s torrential rains, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) was harshly criticized for delaying the cancelation of work and classes and for the serious flooding in Wenshan District caused by a technical error at the local pumping station.
The city government’s response was to fire a technician and remove the director of the Hydraulic Engineering Office from his post, while the commissioner of the Public Works Department resigned to take responsibility.