President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Lin Chuan (林全) have been meeting with the media and non-governmental organizations (NGO), which might be a good sign that the government is moving in a better direction.
Prior to Tsai’s inauguration in May, most people expected that she would turn a new page for the nation and that the government would be the “best at communicating” as she promised after she won January’s election.
However, in the past three months, the government’s decisionmaking mechanism seems to be a little chaotic, with many policy decisions coming as surprises.
For example, the government seemed to reverse its stance on whether workers should be entitled to seven holidays per year when a shift to mandatory two-day weekends takes place or whether workers should be required to have one day off after six days of work.
The government seemed determined at first, then after speaking with business representatives, it changed its stance, even canceling the day-off-after-six-days policy, with that decision made on July 31, the day before the policy was to be implemented.
Such rushed decisions and sudden changes have triggered protests from almost all sides affected. In the debate over labor issues, businesses complained that the government made decisions unilaterally, while labor unions said they were not consulted.
News outlets have expressed discontent over the government’s seeming unwillingness to communicate with the media — mainly criticizing the Executive Yuan and the Presidential Office.
Failure to communicate might not be the only reason for the sharp drop in popularity for the president and the premier, but it must have contributed a great deal.
An opinion poll released on Monday by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research showed that Tsai’s approval rating dropped below 50 percent, while her disapproval rating rose to 39.8 percent.
As for the premier, his approval rating was 37.3 percent, dropping below his disapproval rating of 40.4 percent.
Perhaps the nation’s top two leaders have realized the serious nature of the political crisis they face: Lin, who has often been reluctant to be on the front lines, arranged sessions to speak with labor and business representatives on Friday, while Tsai invited reporters to a reception in Taipei yesterday, where she spoke and answered questions.
Will things improve? That is unknown, but at least the president and premier are starting to interact directly with the media, as well as NGOs.
Keeping the communication channels open and smooth is the first step. If the government sincerely listens to what people have to say and takes into consideration other opinions when making decisions, it would certainly improve a great deal.
The administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was often criticized for being opaque, acting willfully and feeling good about itself — despite protests — which were important factors in the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) landslide defeat in the legislative and presidential elections.
People voted for Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party because they believed that combination would bring change.
Certainly, the public is slightly disappointed three months into Tsai’s administration, but it is never too late to make changes and win hearts again.
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