The responsible government departments should carefully assess these issues and then explain them to the public and allow people to ask difficult questions. These matters should not be dealt with behind closed doors, and the government should not be reduced to playing second fiddle to a corporate show.
Following trade liberalization, more kinds of food and ingredients are being imported into Taiwan, from an ever-wider range of sources and in ever-increasing quantities. Consequently, food safety risks keep increasing and have almost reached the level of a national security problem.
Advanced countries may use sophisticated tests and equipment operated by highly qualified personnel to legally block imports of foreign farm produce. Taiwanese consumers have experienced a series of adulterated food scares and these painful lessons have caused them to completely lose faith in the government’s ability to ensure food safety within and without the nation’s borders.
People also no longer believe in the benevolent corporate images that big companies have constructed for themselves.
If government departments are going to uphold the good-quality image that has taken decades to establish for Taiwan-made products and ensure food safety, they should think twice before authorizing outside contractors to conduct inspection and quarantine-related tasks.
The news is full of stories about things such as the faulty electronic toll collection for freeways, officials’ attendance at banquets given by big companies and the illegal construction of a villa in a national park by the brother of a county commissioner. These issues show that it will take more than complaints to change the cozy relationships between officials and corporations. People must work together to monitor the government and make sure that government officials fulfill their responsibilities.
As economist Jeffrey Sachs, a US proponent of “clinical economics,” says, only when everyone in the country has faith in politics and the sense that they have a role in political processes can the problem of plutocracy be overcome and the nightmare of corporatocracy be avoided.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Julian Clegg