The government inaugurated the National Development Council (NDC) under the Cabinet on Wednesday last week, making it a top government agency in charge of comprehensive planning, administrative coordination, resource distribution and management control.
The NDC merges the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) and the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC), as well as parts of the Public Construction Commission, with former CEPD minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) serving as head of the new agency.
The agency’s establishment means the dissolution of the CEPD, which was set up in December 1977.
However, it also indicates the organizational evolution of an economic policymaking bureaucracy dating back to 1948, when the Council for US Aid (CUSA) was formed to administer the use of US funds in reconstructing the nation’s economy.
Over the past six decades, such economic bureaucracy has undergone several changes in terms of organizational structure and functions. For example, in 1963, the CUSA was reorganized into the Council for International Economic Cooperation and Development, which was replaced by the Economic Planning Council in 1973 before transforming into the CEPD in 1977.
Even though these organizations performed various functions to cope with the nation’s economic needs at the time, they nevertheless had the authority as a large Cabinet agency and played an important role in drafting economic policies and advising on economic issues referred to it by the Cabinet.
However, this economic bureaucracy lost its significance in the last 10 years, with the CEPD degraded to a mere staff organ and its functions reduced to economic planning and research as a result of changes in the external environment, internal personnel and tensions among government agencies.
Therefore, the reorganization of the CEPD into the NDC indicates the government’s recognition of the inefficiency of economic planning and its anticipation of the consolidation of real policymaking power.
The move marks the government’s desire to have a more capable economic bureaucracy able to help Taiwan regain economic vitality and enhance the public’s quality of life within the extraordinary situation it faces.
At the same time, the public would hope the establishment of NDC, which incorporates functions of three agencies, could substantially improve government efficiency, about which they have long complained.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony on Wednesday, Kuan said the NDC’s activities are to focus on national policies on economy, society, human resources, cultural development, spatial planning and government administration. In other words, it will not just focus on economic development, but also all policies that can shape the nation’s future direction.
However, for Kuan to accomplish his job successfully, the NDC needs to integrate functions that were previously under the domain of other agencies. In addition to its role of plan formulation, the new council also must effectively coordinate, evaluate and supervise the execution of plans initiated by other agencies. In a nutshell, this is about government efficiency.
Most importantly, the NDC should avoid a closed-door policymaking process in the much more complex macroeconomic situation it faces, because that is not going to satisfy the needs of the public and the nation as a whole.