‘Les Miserables’ in Taiwan
The Taipei Times’ editorial on Sunday (“Economic wake-up call,” Sept. 9, page 8) echoes with a sad story in which an unemployed teenager had to steal instant noodles after going hungry for five days. This story would make many Taiwanese cry — with or without tears.
The story has a catchy title: “Father dead, mother hospitalized, a boy stole instant noodles after being hungry for five days” (Liberty Times, Sept. 9). The 17-year-old teenager in Greater Kaohsiung could not find a job after graduating from high school more than two months ago. His father passed away three years ago and his mother has been in a mental hospital for more than 10 years. His 19-year-old brother works in a supermarket earning a monthly salary of more than NT$20,000. The hungry boy was caught shoplifting about NT$100 worth of instant noodles and crackers.
Fortunately, the police were kind-hearted and did not send him to jail. The police even gave the boy some money for food and tried to help him find a job, and they deserve our applause.
Apparently the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) that Taiwan signed with China is not helping the nation in general nor the industrial city of Kaohsiung in particular. Government slogans touting the “golden decade” and “joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership in eight years” are all too remote in the future for people suffering now to comprehend. What the administration ought to do is provide food stamps to hungry families and low-interest loans to allow poverty-stricken students to go to college.
It is hoped that the scenario depicted in the 1862 French novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo will not find an echo here in Taiwan.