Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Cabinet must stay its own course

This kind of civic anger has already taken on a nature quite different from the anti-reform movement. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a new challenge for the Tsai administration.

Again, everyone has an opinion; not all opinions are of equal merit. It is the leader’s job to make the tough decisions.

Reforms target a small minority of vested interests. If they are vigorously and resolutely pushed through, reforms will receive majority support and can be used to adjust an unreasonable distribution of benefits so that they benefit all people. Reform of military personnel, civil servant and public-school teacher pensions, as well as returning ill-gotten party assets to the public are examples.

Such reforms would do much to improve the standing of the Tsai administration, but unfortunately, the government has wasted time, with the result that public enthusiasm and support have died down. Transitional justice has been cast as a score-settling tool by supporters of the old authoritarian system.

The next battle will be the economy and the standard of living. Industrial economy, employment, wages, housing prices, the low birth rate, air pollution and even ill-intended attacks on Taiwan from the other side of the Taiwan Strait: Success or failure in these areas will have a direct effect on public opinion.

The Tsai administration must think before acting, work hard and show real results. That is the only way it could improve its popularity — and next year’s local elections will be a test on how things are going.

As it stands, air pollution has re-emerged as a major issue and the government must deal with it carefully, as it affects everyone’s health. There is little the government can do about the portion that comes from China, but in terms of the things that it does have control over, the government should not allow them to become politicized and should make the right decision based on scientific evidence.

At the moment, certain political parties, populist groups and politicians hoping to run in next year’s elections have portrayed air pollution as a problem that can easily be fixed by reducing the power output from coal-fired power plants. Proponents of such plans are urging the government to amend the law, but have said nothing about how to maintain stability of power supply and electricity prices.

If the Tsai administration were to follow their advice without thinking, it would end up with more problems and a NT$30,000 minimum wage would remain a distant dream.

Air pollution offers a good opportunity for the Tsai administration to win more public support, as the issue affects everyone and policies addressing it would have tangible results. However, if the administration allows itself to get caught up in the populist discourse that pits electricity against air pollution, it could make the same mistake of complicating things and allowing problems to drag on.

As Taiwan’s democracy becomes stronger, public expectations for quality of life will only get higher. With lower thresholds for holding recall elections and referendums, civic groups will only become more active.

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