A friend of mine has been ill for a long time. He often complains about how incompetent his doctors are. One day, when his wife heard him complaining yet again, she impatiently rebuked him, saying: “You keep blaming your parents for giving you such a weak body and the doctors for not being able to cure you. You always blame everyone else for everything, but you never blame yourself for smoking and drinking too much, or for being a lazybones who does not take good care of yourself and your body.”
It is appropriate to apply her rebuke to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration.
Earlier this month, the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, published the World Competitiveness Yearbook, in which Taiwan’s competitiveness ranking dropped from 11th to 13th place — the third consecutive demotion of the nation.
In response, the Cabinet’s National Development Council looked at the possible reasons for the fall and the result of that review was that since the institute’s evaluation was conducted during the Sunflower movement protests and the occupation of the legislative chamber, the instability had affected scores in the survey.
The council’s conclusion seems both unreasonable and far-fetched. There were no student protests in the previous two years, so why did the nation’s ranking also drop during that period? If we take a closer look at this year’s ranking, we will see that results for Taiwan experienced the largest decline in the categories of “government efficiency” and “business efficiency.”
The five criteria looked at in the first of these two categories were public finance, fiscal policy, institutional framework, business legislation and societal framework and the five criteria in the second group were productivity, the labor market, finance, management practices and attitudes and values. These categories, then, cover fiscal deterioration, regulatory rigidity, talent outflow and political instability, all problems that result from poor government performance.
If businesses operated in an environment with an optimistic and efficient government, how could the student-led movement be able to easily affect the judgement of business executives when they answered the survey? Also, why would the student-led movement have started if the public was satisfied with the government’s performance?
According to a Taiwanese saying, “not even a typhoon can blow down a deeply rooted tree.”
People who work and rest regularly, eat well and exercise should not have to worry about falling ill.
Similarly, an efficient government does not have to worry about criticism or evaluation. Unfortunately, the Ma administration’s poor performance has caused much public anger, forcing people to take to the streets. No wonder the nation’s ranking dropped again this year.
If the government were self-aware and had the ability to reflect on its own actions, it would have known that it was not doing well and it should have tried to improve this situation.
Had it done so, the Ma administration would still have been salvageable. Against all expectations, in the face of this lack of efficiency, those in power are doing what they can to shirk responsibility.
The government can no longer be saved and since that is the case, how can we continue to harbor any expectations for the government?
Hsu Yu-fang is a professor in the Department of Sinophone Literatures at National Dong Hwa University.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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