Wed, Dec 03, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’

Economic reform rather than political ideology is clearly the foremost concern of Taiwanese voters, as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration’s failure to improve the economy translated into crushing defeat in the nine-in-one elections on Saturday last week.

For the first time in the history of the nation’s democratic evolution, Taiwanese simply voted for the right to survive. The Democratic Progressive Party’s landslide victory — winning 13 of the 22 mayoral seats — also destroyed the myth that “deep-blue” or “deep-green” supporters would always vote along party lines.

That is no longer the case. The KMT won just 40.7 percent of the votes, its lowest since 2001, while the DPP grabbed 47.55 percent, its second-highest since direct elections were introduced.

Voters roared for change as stagnating wages and a widening income gap have created a new generation of working poor. With monthly payrolls hitting a 15-year low, most young people are struggling to pay for the basic necessities. Meanwhile, Taiwan has become a haven for foreign businesses looking for cheap labor.

The KMT should learn from this defeat and listen carefully to the public’s voice — or risk facing even more serious consequences in the presidential election in 2016.

In its remaining two years in power, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration needs to tackle key economic issues skillfully and sort out the problems. The government forecasts that the economy would grow 3.5 percent annually this year, but the average person is unlikely to feel the effect of this growth because it is not passed on in the form of wage hikes.

The government has long ignored the disconnect between economic growth and wages, which most economists blame on Taiwan’s special trade structure — with local manufacturers taking orders in Taiwan, but manufacturing the goods overseas — for the mismatch.

In addition to wages, the government needs to ramp up its efforts to solve a host of problems ranging from food safety scares to rising prices of daily necessities, tax reform and trade talks not only with China, but also other countries.

The government should give up long-standing bureaucratic inertia and tackle the tasks at hand with determination. It should avoid the policy turnabouts that have only caused confusion among officials, depressed markets and caused the public to lose confidence in the government. The draft cross-strait trade in goods agreement and proposal to establish free economic pilot zones have been stalled in the legislature for at least six months, as poor communication by the government and the lack of an extensive assessment of potential trade losses have fueled strong opposition from a public afraid of what may happen if markets are opened up. The list goes on.

The Ma government has also arrived at a critical juncture as it confronts growing difficulties in tapping a capable candidate to helm the Cabinet following Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) resignation. The next premier faces an uphill task in pushing government policies in the face of an empowered opposition and deteriorating support from KMT legislators.

KMT legislators, including Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), had tried to persuade central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) to take over as premier, but Perng has stuck to his guns and declined the offer.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top