Sun, Oct 30, 2016 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Ko must exit produce power play

The brouhaha surrounding Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co’s personnel issues received wide media coverage over the past week. While it is not uncommon for politicians to attempt to gain control of the produce supply chain and distribution channels given the enormous benefits involved, the ugliness of politics has rarely been on full display at such an inconvenient time.

The company on Wednesday called a board meeting and elected three new standing directors, but stopped short of electing a new president, who can name the firm’s general manager, prompting Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) to accuse the company of breaking a promise.

While Ko did not clarify what that promise was, he said that company general manager Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has tendered his resignation, which he has not yet approved.

Han on Thursday told the Taipei City Council that he had been offered a job by Ko to serve as his top aide on the condition that he resigns from the post.

The Taipei City Government and the Council of Agriculture, which together hold a 45.5 percent stake in the company, reportedly devised a plan to remove Han, who oversees the company’s operations, and nominate Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretariat Director Chiang Yu-lin (蔣玉麟) as the company’s general manager.

The rumored plan to remove Han and the position Ko has offered him seem unusually coincidental and make people question whether there was any dealmaking between Ko and Han, who is a member of former Yunlin commissioner Chang Jung-wei’s (張榮味) faction, which has controlled the firm’s operations for 16 years.

However, as Ko and the council only secured two seats on the firm’s seven-member board, Ko would be forced to make compromises to the Chang faction to elect Lin Chiu-hui (林秋慧), a candidate for company president endorsed by Ko, while the hope of eroding Chang’s influence has evaporated.

Ko would probably not have gotten himself into such a sticky situation if he had not fired the company’s former president, Hsu Chang-jen (許長仁), last month, which gave the Chang faction a majority on the board following Wednesday’s election, leading to the rumor that Ko had been tricked into sacking Hsu.

The Chang faction will probably have the last laugh and Ko will be hard-pressed to explain his miscalculation to the DPP, while Taipei residents, who have been paying more for their fruit and vegetables, surely will not appreciate the blatant power struggle, much less Ko’s whimsical idea to found another agricultural products marketing company, which shows how out of touch he is with reality.

Although Ko has urged the firm’s directors to end the power play and promptly elect a new president, his idea of establishing a new company is itself a script for a power play that would only divide and disrupt produce supplies, leaving prices open to manipulation by profiteers.

Besides, has Ko considered the costs that need to be shouldered by both sides if he evicted Han’s firm from its premises and started a new company using taxpayers’ money?

Those costs would be transferred onto consumers.

Rather than being a sore loser, perhaps it is time that Ko ordered the Taipei Market Administration Office to assist the central government’s investigation into possible profiteering to bring produce prices back to normal and stopped talking about his unrealistic plan, which will only create a no-win situation for consumers and himself.

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