Sat, Oct 05, 2013 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Statistical manipulation

Even as an ardent detractor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his incompetent and corrupt party, it has been impossible to ignore the discourse on this side of the Fourth Estate degenerating into an endless series of polemics against Ma.

It was a delight to see an article that used statistical analysis to compare the economy’s performance under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration between 2000 and 2008 with how it has fared under this current bunch of sino-phantic cronies, although my delight was tempered somewhat upon seeing that the author was the economic adviser to Chen Shui-bian and avid Ma critic Chen Po-chih (陳博志) (“Comparing economic performances,” Sept. 22, page 8).

Before finishing the first few paragraphs I was disappointed, but not surprised, that even the pure realm of statistical analysis can, through obvious omissions, be recruited to the belligerent field of partisan scrimmaging.

In an article purporting to analyze how the two administrations managed the nation’s financial health from 2000 until last year, there is not one mention of the global financial crisis.

To compare the performance of the parties without mentioning the recession does nothing to show how the Ma-led government managed the economy.

Chen Po-chih said the “economic growth rate between 1999 and 2007 was 4.4 percent. Between 2007 and last year, it was 2.93 percent, and projected growth for this year is about 2 percent.”

What is not mentioned is that the combined year-on-year growth rate for 2008 and 2009 was minus-0.53 percent.

According to the World Bank, from 2008 until 2009, Japan had a “growth” rate of minus-3.5 percent and the US’ was minus-1.75 percent. Asian economies comparable to Taiwan had the following growth rates: Hong Kong minus-0.2 percent, Thailand 0.01 percent, Singapore 0.45 percent, South Korea 1.3 percent and Malaysia 1.65 percent.

In his article, Chen Po-chih failed to mention that in 2010 Taiwan had 10.76 percent year-on-year growth, which, according to the World Bank, was bettered by only seven countries.

In another example of selective analysis, Chen Po-chih said: “In 2007, total government debt increased by only NT$23.7 billion (US$800 million), while last year it increased by NT$247.6 billion. Between 2008 and last year, government debt increased to NT$1.8155 trillion, equal to NT$78,000 per capita.”

That government debt has rocketed to an all time high is undeniable, but as a percentage of GDP the debt actually increased faster in the first five years of Chen Shui-bian’s administration.

The point here is not to defend Ma’s management of the economy, but to show that when facts, figures and events are omitted and manipulated to make a point, it reduces the writer’s credibility and, even more grievously, it shows intellectual dishonesty.

Hunter Hitchens

Taipei

Repeal language reform

I recently read with disappointment in the Taipei Times that the government wants to make native language classes compulsory in schools (“Native languages to be compulsory,” Sept. 6, page 1). As a middle-school student, I feel strongly that we should learn these languages by our own will.

Forcing students to learn native languages is a waste of time, and may even result in the loss in value of these languages. Furthermore, the education system in Taiwan is already stressful to students. Adding more subjects only adds to student’s workload and stress.

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