Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Oil scare shows conflict of interest

By Liu Ching-yi 劉靜怡

The experience of other countries has shown that when academia becomes involved in public governance, government oversight, and industrial development and oversight, the complexities of the democratic system mean that complications arise, and the results are not always desirable.

When a government official alludes that unnamed people are involved in breaking the law, the public has a right to know who or what it is the official is referring to. That official also has a duty to identify the lawbreakers and the nature of what they have done, otherwise it it difficult to dispel suspicions of collusion.

When officials lament that other countries are speeding ahead while Taiwan seems to be treading water, why do they not admit the strong likelihood that the difference is that Western governments have already put an effective and workable support system in place prior to introducing any development policies or stimulus measures, rather than rushing off half-cocked, announcing the relaxation of regulations and waiting to see what effect the changes have?

Even universities like Harvard and MIT, which are known for the cooperation they promote between businesses and academics, have long required researchers to fully disclose any aspects of their participation that could give rise to a conflict of interest.

Is it the case that there are no examples to follow? There are, and it is not that they cannot be followed, it is that people choose not to do so.

Liu Ching-yi is a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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