What is President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) real agenda? Is he actually trying to ruin the country? If he does plan to bankrupt Taiwan, or erode the nation’s competitive edge to the point that it has no chance on the international stage, he is doing a pretty good job of it.
The “Teflon president” was voted into power with a large majority in 2008, and won with a convincing lead in his re-election earlier this year, so it is surprising to see just months later that even his friends are abandoning him, while some legislators from his own Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are refusing to go along with his unpopular policies.
Given the unpopularity of a number of his recent moves and the turbulence they are causing in Taiwanese society, even stalwart allies such as Foxconn chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), Taiwan’s richest man, who campaigned on Ma’s behalf, are one after the other stepping out to implore Ma to listen to reason and halt some of his damaging economic policies. In this case, Gou was referring to the Ma administration’s plan to impose a capital gains tax on securities transactions, a proposal that had an immediate effect on the TAIEX, causing stocks to plummet and trading volume to diminish just as the world’s economy seems to be grinding to a halt.
Another highly unpopular policy was the Ma administration’s decision to allow fuel and electricity price increases, a policy that created a knock-on effect, leading to overall inflation of consumer goods prices in Taiwan. Again, he could not have chosen a worse time to implement this policy. The world’s economy is a shambles, China’s GDP growth is slowing to its most anemic rate in years, Europe is falling apart, Japan is saddled with enormous debts and the US is barely inching along.
This was not the time to reward political allies by allowing them to raise prices, or initiate economic experiments that could hobble the nation’s economy if they go wrong.
Then there is the ever-emotional issue of US beef imports. Ma is having a hard time even getting legislators from the KMT, a party that he chairs, to follow his commands and vote for an amendment that would effectively relax a ban on beef imports containing the controversial livestock feed additive ractopamine. For health, economic and political reasons, a wide swath of the public opposes lifting this ban. However, Ma wants to go ahead with it anyway, even threatening to use an executive order if the legislature cannot pass the amendment.
All these unpopular issues have had a major toll on both the Ma administration and the public at large. However, what is even worse is the political energy that is being wasted on these dead-end policies that could be put to much better use shoring up the nation’s economy, fixing its flooding problems, getting rid of waste in the healthcare system and addressing long-standing problems in education. Like any country, Taiwan has its fair share of problems, and they need to be addressed by smart politicians with the willpower to do something to fix them.
However, it seems that Ma would rather have the public concentrate on his own personal, man-made problems. If anything, this is the clearest sign that Ma’s ego is out of control.