Sun, Jan 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Corruption threatening democracy

On Wednesday, investigations were launched in two major corruption cases, one involving Taoyuan’s “Asian Silicon Valley” initiative, and the other involving health officials.

Prosecutors are investigating former Taoyuan Department of Economic Planning director Chu Sung-wei (朱松偉) on suspicion of receiving bribes and rigging bids to help companies secure contracts for projects that are part of the initiative.

In December 2016, David Weng (翁嘉盛), the chief investor in the initiative, said that one of the investors’ aims was to make Taiwan more competitive in the growing Internet of Things industry.

An initiative such as this is important in helping the nation transition to a services-based economy, which is a global trend. Developing these services and their associated technologies would also help Taiwan reduce its reliance on China.

Meanwhile, as Taiwan is faced with an aging population, long-term healthcare services and medication are of growing importance. The Long-term Care Services Program 2.0 that the Ministry of Health and Welfare launched in 2016 suffers from a shortage of care workers, but entrepreneurs have been exploring ways to make up for these shortages with “smart” monitoring and remote-care solutions.

The Asian Silicon Valley initiative could provide incubators to develop these technologies further. However, pervasive corruption among officials must be tackled first.

Prosecutors said they are investigating five people, including Chen Li-chi (陳立奇), head of Taipei City Hospital’s Department of Pharmacy, over allegations of siphoning public funds while procuring medicine for long-term care.

On Sept. 20 last year, New Power Party caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said his party reviewed 1,769 Democratic Progressive Party and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidates for the Nov. 24 local elections, and found that more than 100 had either been charged with or found guilty of some form of corruption.

Lee Hsuan-tsai (李玄在) of the KMT was elected mayor of Changhua County’s Beidou Township (北斗), but was indicted on corruption charges on Jan. 3, while prosecutors have said they are still trying to nullify results from the elections of other officials following investigations into vote-buying and breaches of campaigning regulations.

While prosecutors and investigators should be applauded for their efforts, the persistence of corruption among public officials means current measures are not an effective deterrent.

An article published by Web site brookings.edu on Nov. 29, 2012, said that “Merely adopting a new anti-corruption law, creating another commission, or launching another ‘campaign’ will not get the job done” in the fight against corruption, which the article called a “symptom of a larger disease.”

Instead, changes are needed in governance and accountability to solve the issue, it said.

An article published by the World Bank on May 14, 2014, cited Yale Law School professor Susan Rose-Ackerman as saying that a two-pronged approach is needed. Part of this strategy would be to pay civil servants more to disincentivize the supplementing of income through illegal activity, make the use of public funds more transparent and “cut the red tape” to make doing business easier so that there would be no reason to bribe officials. Smart technologies could also be employed to bridge the gap between officials and the public, and subsidies should be replaced with direct cash payments where needed, the article said.

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