A sluggish economy will exacerbate social conflict. Take last year’s hottest topics for example. The lack of an increase in the basic wage and the surging housing prices highlighted the widening income gap.
Controversy over the Labor Insurance Fund and pensions for military personnel, civil servants and public school teachers reflected the unequal treatment of different professional groups, and in particular, the issue concerning the 18 percent preferential savings interest rate on part of the pensions for government employees showed that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would not touch the benefits of its die-hard supporters.
The government was too weak to reform the pension system and Taiwanese youth, in addition to enduring low wages and high unemployment, will now have to carry the burden of growing public debt for many years to come.
In addition, there were many reports of people committing suicide after seeing no way out of their poverty.
If the Ma administration merely consisted of “bumblers,” Taiwan’s economy and society would not have deteriorated to this state of affairs.
The government lowered the inheritance, gift and business taxes for the rich and was very generous when it came to spending money on sponsoring its supporters, while oppressing the basic wages and rights of wage earners and farmers.
Moreover, the government raised the fuel and electricity prices in the name of reform, yet failed to improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.
Even worse, it introduced the capital gains tax on securities transaction and increased the second-generation national health insurance premiums and the national pension premiums, tormenting the public who were already reeling from a poor economy.
Officials ignored the complaints of stock investors, the losses of bank depositors and the hardships of part-time workers.
It is the government’s responsibility to serve the public, but it has failed to perform this duty and has instead created further hardship.
Last year also saw China launch more direct and comprehensive political warfare against Taiwan. It demonstrated its ability to influence the results of the presidential election by telling pro-Chinese businesspeople to speak up in support of Ma.
Later, with the help of their Taiwanese allies, high-raking Chinese officials traveled across the nation to lure Taiwanese people to China to promote unification as well as oppose independence.
Finally, a concert in connection with the Chinese Music Chart Awards (中國歌曲排行榜) was held in Taipei on Dec.29. China not only penetrated Taiwan, but also encouraged Taiwanese from all walks of life to visit China, offering courteous treatment, making its approach even smoother and more sophisticated.
In comparison, the Ma administration bragged about the benefits of the signing of the cross-straight Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China in 2011, claiming that it would boost the economy, increase exports to China, attract foreign investment and benefit free-trade agreement talks with other countries.
Taiwanese have gained none of those benefits over the past year. After opening Taiwan up to Chinese tourists, the Ma administration, which leaned excessively toward China, placed its hope on Chinese capital and allowed Chinese companies to participate in public construction projects.