Lately, the government has been operating like an old, rusty machine in disrepair. It does not fulfill its fundamental functions and repeatedly fails and spins out of control.
The recent food safety scares have highlighted the problems. Top Pot Bakery misrepresented its products by saying they contained only natural ingredients when they used artificial flavoring. Local rice was mixed with inferior, imported rice, mislabeled and sold at high prices. Cottonseed oil was added to edible oils with flavoring agents, creating olive oil without olives, chili oil without chili and some products containing the potentially harmful additive copper chlorophyllin.
Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co, Flavor Full Food Inc, Formosa Oilseed Processing Co, Ting Hsin International Group and Wei Chuan Food Corp have all profited from adulterated oils, which has harmed consumer confidence.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare should have gotten its act together, raised the alert and prepared a comprehensive set of response measures when the issues surfaced. However, the ministry has learned nothing from the scandals and has failed to establish standard operating procedures for food safety, labeling inspections and food safety crisis management. As a result, it has been unable to handle the ensuing chaos, prompting Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to lose his temper, call the mess “unforgivable” and promise heavy punishments for those responsible.
Prosecutors act on the government’s behalf and the Special Investigation Division (SID) is the watchdog over top officials. The SID’s prosecutors — carefully selected from district prosecutors’ offices — are often regarded as the elite, but that bubble was burst by the SID’s haphazard handling of the improper lobbying case, the abuse of wiretapping and the wiretapping of the legislature’s switchboard.
Ironically, Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) is being prosecuted by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office. One wonders how that could promote trust and respect for prosecutors and how they handle cases.
The government is always upbeat about economic forecasts and claims to be working to improve the economy, but the optimistic forecast of 4 percent GDP growth it issued earlier this year no longer stands up to scrutiny. The second-quarter forecast was more subdued and adjusted downward from 3 percent in the third quarter to 2 percent this quarter. Now, many research institutions think not even 2 percent is achievable.
Despite this, the Council for Economic Planning and Development has not proposed any plans to boost the economy. Economic improvement is currently impossible given the passive attitude officials are taking toward economic forecasts.
The nation’s leaders control national policy direction and advancement, but President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) behavior is absurd. He calls for reform, but does not persevere to see it achieved. He does not understand the need to assess situations and he is incapable of supervising reform implementation. His slogans are hot air and have a negative impact on national development.
For example, when he made a big issue of what is right and what is wrong in his attempt to eliminate Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), he created an economic and political stalemate for several months. It is little wonder that his approval rating dropped to 9.2 percent.