“Incompetent” and “arrogant” have often been used by critics to describe President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in light of his poor governance. However, in view of his administration’s recent personnel reshuffle, it seems “selfish” could also be added to the list of adjectives, given that Ma appears more interested in “leaving a legacy” than in tackling the nation’s economic woes.
Opposition parties and critics alike have been quick to accuse Ma of missing a point in the reshuffle announced last week. Pointing to the nation’s sluggish economic status, including a high unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, an inflation rate of 3.42 percent and the likelihood of seeing its misery index for last month listed as the highest among the four “Asian Tigers,” they said replacing officials in economics or finance ministries was imperative to rescue the economy.
Indeed, a head of a state who keeps people’s suffering close to heart and could empathize with the public’s struggles would likely do just as the critics suggested, replacing the administration’s economic team to demonstrate a sense of determination to reinvigorate the economy.
That Ma chose to change his national security, foreign affairs and cross-strait team instead left the public to conclude that he thinks the former are more urgent and important than the economic troubles plaguing the country.
Why is that?
After winning re-election in January, Ma was not shy to reveal his ambition of “leaving a legacy” and making bold reforms now that he no longer faces the pressure of seeking re-election. As signing a peace pact with China was one of the items in Ma’s “golden decade” national development plan during his re-election campaign, it would be reasonable to connect the dots and to suspect the Cabinet reshuffle may have had more to do with speeding up his “golden decade” plan for Taiwan.
Then there is the new role given to Ma’s longtime advisor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), who was named the next representative to the US. King said in a recent interview that he could and would faithfully convey Ma’s policies to the US, an emphasis that was intriguing and created speculation that the Ma government might need to allay the US’ wariness in the event that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait begin to discuss signing a peace agreement.
Although Ma has promised that a referendum would be held first to gauge public opinion about a peace agreement with China and that his government would not sign such an agreement if the referendum fails, many Taiwanese have little confidence in Ma’s words considering the lack of oversight and transparency in the government’s negotiations with China in the case of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
While some may be applauding Ma and lauding how he, through the latest personnel adjustment, demonstrated his determination to try to create new horizons for Taiwan’s foreign and cross-strait relations, many more cannot help but cringe — and fear that the nation’s president seems to be more interested in making his “personal mark” on history and establishing his so-called legacy than he is in the welfare of his people.