Ever since he took office, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has turned Taiwan upside down and damaged both political and economic structures in what he describes as his three reforms. This, combined with the European sovereign-debt crisis, has hit the nation hard and this year it has seen negative export growth. In addition, the economic growth rate is continually being revised downward by domestic and overseas research institutes and it seems that Ma faces a hard time keeping his campaign promises.
During the recent Tropical Storm Talim, which was predicted to cause massive havoc, it was thought Ma would use the potential disaster as an excuse to stop promoting the policies which are creating so much domestic upheaval. Unexpectedly, despite his approval rating being at less than 20 percent, Ma has decided to push ahead with his terrible policies.
The huge consumer price increases brought about by recent price hikes in fuel and electricity costs have made life very hard for the public. These huge social costs could have been avoided. Because of Ma’s unwillingness to first reform state-owned enterprises and rid them of corruption and because of the government’s misjudgement of international oil price trends, price hikes were enforced and called “reforms.” This is what caused consumer prices to rise.
Last week, fuel prices were reduced for the 12th time in a row and CPC Corp, Taiwan announced that from this month fuel prices will once again be reflective of the prices charged on the market. After 12 weeks of chaos, we are right back to where we started, although, of course, consumer prices will not return to where they were 12 weeks ago.
The question now is, since Taiwan Power Co uses petroleum and natural gas as fuel and since the international prices of petroleum and natural gas are falling, why are there no indications that Taipower’s staged price increases will come to an end?
Unfortunately, although the fuel and electricity price increases have been proven to be a mistake, Ma has not only failed to apologize to the public, but he has continued to pretend he was right. He was even shameless enough to call the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee to a meeting during the recent tropical storm and, using milk powder as an example, claimed that consumer prices would return to their previous levels.
Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) embodied the sycophantic nature of all of Ma’s officials by going to great lengths to defend the government’s policies and criticize the public for complaining every time reforms are proposed. He said the government is still being criticized for a single NT$3.5 increase in the price of fuel, but no one has thanked it for lowering prices 11 times in a row. It really is disheartening to see such a shameless display of sycophancy.
In the past, Ma blamed the public for not understanding economics. However, reality shows that the average citizen has a better grasp of economics than Ma. At least they understand that once prices in restaurants and bread shops go up they will not come back down, and just because the price of rice wine might have dropped and milk powder costs might have stabilized, does not mean other products are doing the same.
Ma is happy to be known as the president who kept down rice wine prices, however, the public cannot get by on rice wine and milk powder alone. Politicians seem to be out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.