Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: ‘Little wonder’ that plan falls short

The deputy minister of the interior said on Monday that the public could get six “extra” vacation days next year, to compensate for national holidays that fall on weekends. That will bring the number of holidays and weekends to 115 days next year from the original 109, which still lags behind the 119 days granted by the Japanese and South Korean governments for their workers.

The ministry’s decision came amid a government pledge to create “little wonders” for the public, which is part of Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) guidelines to provide a breather for people suffering due to long-lasting wage stagnation, soaring living expenses and a capricious economy.

That is the first and the only wonder the government has attempted to bring about so far. However, it is questionable how much such “little wonders” will help improve the economy and ordinary people’s lives. How much economic benefit will six vacation days bring? Is this the only thing a responsible government can do to improve the quality of life?

Is what the government and Taiwanese want simply a moment of happiness, rather than a sustainable economy that can create a perpetually better life?

It is understandable that average people can only passively pray for “little wonders” to help them endure growing difficulties, when prices of a wide range of necessities soar and become unaffordable. To cope with soaring living expenses, most families have to tighten the purse strings, since there is not much else they can do.

However, the government should do its best to provide short-term and long-term solutions. It must unveil an inspiring vision for the public and must pursue general well-being. That is what a responsible government would do.

Obviously, Taiwan’s officials do not think so. They are not the troubleshooters they should be. They even cannot see the problem itself.

“Only the price of pork shows unusual increases and most agricultural product prices are fluctuating in a reasonable range: No significant price rise is apparent,” Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said during a question-and-answer section at the legislature yesterday.

“Peanut powder is not an essential ingredient of runbing (潤餅) [spring rolls],” Chen said, in response to a legislator’s question about what the government will do to stabilize prices of agricultural products such as sticky rice, mushrooms and peanuts, which are the main ingredients of runbing, a staple for the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Day.

Chen did not provide the council’s solution, or show any intention to fix the pricing problem, but did ask the public to endure a spike in consumer prices.

Dysfunctional bureaucracy is seen everywhere. The government’s major efforts to push for a service trade pact with China is still locked in a stalemate in the legislature. The government considers the service trade pact a major step to strengthen ties with China and a key stepping-stone to joining the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be the world’s biggest trade pact of its kind if formed.

Taiwan definitely needs more than “little wonders” to boost economic growth and to compete with rivals such as South Korea. The nation needs more substantial industrial policies and thorough planning to facilitate industrial upgrades, which have been discussed for a while, though with no substantial steps having been taken.

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