A felicitous editorial by the Taipei Times hit the nail on the head in the wake of the presidential and legislative elections (“Tsai faces economic challenges,” Jan. 18, page 8).
Coinciding with this piece of writing, there might be some more crucial tips to help president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) cope with the economic challenges that she faces.
Amid her landslide victory over Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson has demonstrated psychological confidence and physical readiness to restructure a politically split nation by coping with a visible social shift.
One of the challenges that Tsai vowed to deal with is economic development.
Strategies for dealing with challenges under her forthcoming leadership are likely to have a pre-eminent effect on the destiny of future generations.
While congratulating Tsai on regaining the long-awaited leadership, chartering a new course of political, economic and social change to best serve the interests of Taiwanese, as well as other nations in the Asia-Pacific region, it is hoped that Tsai can demonstrate her wisdom and integrity to bypass the malfunctions of Taiwan’s political mechanisms, recreating innovative strategies and best-practice policy for a young democracy by purifying society and the political sector, which have been polluted by notorious demagogues and unethical predecessors in past decades.
The road ahead might be rough, despite the diverse multitude supporting Tsai, for different reasons.
As a pragmatist elected to turn around the economy, Tsai has had extensive administrative experience serving the nation in high-profile positions, starting in 1984 under the tutelage of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). It was during this period that she witnessed undesirable populism and growing corruption, both of which were ignited by elections embedded in an immature democracy and a declining quality of education.
Tsai’s first task as president is to conceive a way to re-educate and restore the ethics of public servants, related to the value of honesty, good governance, quality services and accountability. Corruption and populism are correlated and have sabotaged normal and promising development since the 1990s, depriving Taiwan of its reputation as a force among the four “little dragons” of Asia.
Former World Bank president Robert Zoellick said in a New York Times article published in 2007: “Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fiber, and destroys trust.”
Thus, the biggest challenge for Tsai as president is likely to be how best to root out corruption through efficient and innovative education.
Second, it is imperative to enhance comprehensive international competitiveness through nurturing talent based on education, in particular higher education.
The collapse of the nation’s higher-education system could be attributed to misleading policies endorsed by Lee, allowing the establishment of too many colleges and universities. Irreversible policy of this type of education reform has generated intolerable grievance for all as manifested by the loss of elite talent, as well as rapidly declining quality of higher education.
It is hoped that the new president can demonstrate wisdom and overhaul the nation’s higher education sector through diverse approaches, including bold programs for motivating advanced studies domestically and internationally.
While increasing numbers of college students decide against study abroad, the nation’s talent pool is rapidly being depleted, compared with China, India, South Korea and Singapore, where the quality of international education policies and practices are far advanced.
Third, international and cross-strait relations are of instrumental importance.
The New York Times on Sunday said Tsai is “a pragmatist elected to turn around Taiwan’s economy and balance nationalist fervor with the realities of maintaining ties with mainland China.”
How best to strategically maintain stable relations and improved communication with China in a pragmatic and flexible manner is of great importance to Taiwan for development in an international context. Reconciliation matters. Failure to reconcile might undercut Taiwan’s pragmatic relations with many nations in the long run.
The fourth and most arduous challenge is coordination of and communication with the Legislative Yuan, which has been castigated as an institute without efficiency or integrity.
The legislature has been brewed out of long-term political struggles for personal interest, hampering the proper functions of lawmaking, such as accelerating the expected development and progress of the nation, or safeguarding the public’s best interests. Instead, the legislature has become notorious for shouting matches and physical altercations.
As the DPP will hold a majority in the new legislature, Tsai should exert her best efforts to create a respectable, professional and functional environment.
Finally, Tsai should remind her new Cabinet members and all public servants of the Victorian virtues of “self-discipline, work, responsibility, perseverance and honesty” as Gertrude Himmelfarb quoted William Bennett as saying in The De-Moralization of Society.
The suggestion might lead to economic and social progress, as well as continued prosperity that the nation is worthy of.
Let society be restored to its normalcy under the new Tsai administration.
Li Chen-ching is a professor emeritus of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ English department at Shih Hsin University.
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