The new legislative session starts tomorrow and party caucuses are discussing the issues they plan to tackle. Some of the problems are related to recent events and some have urgency due to time constraints, while others are part of the new Cabinet’s agenda, which Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) inherited from his predecessor, former premier William Lai (賴清德).
One of the priority issues is child abuse, which came to the forefront of public attention after a number of incidents. There seems to be broad cross-party consensus on this issue.
However, the issue of same-sex marriage does not enjoy similar cross-party backing. The waters of that debate were muddied in November last year when a majority of voters backed proposals opposing marriage equality.
Although lawmakers need to listen to public will expressed through the referendums, they must also uphold the Constitution and act in accordance with Constitutional Interpretation 748, which requires the government to create legislation to ensure marriage equality within two years of the May 2017 ruling.
The results of the referendums, as well as the concurrent local elections, were largely interpreted as a backlash against the Democratic Progressive Party’s reform agenda of the past two years.
Su on Tuesday submitted a report to the legislature outlining the direction in which he would like to take the government. Many of his recommendations are a continuation of the policies launched by Lai.
However, there have been some additions, such as President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “four musts” and “three shields” that she announced in response to intimidation from the Chinese Communist Party, and new measures to address African swine fever and air pollution.
The continuation of Lai’s policies, despite the drubbing the party received at the local elections, is by no means a bad thing. Many of the government’s policies were unpopular because of their disruptive and painful nature — such as pension reform — or the government’s failure to communicate its intentions properly — such as transitional justice or the goal of achieving a nuclear-free homeland by 2025.
This does not mean that these reforms are not necessary. It is right for Su to push ahead, given the government changes its approach and improves its communication with the public.
Su’s report recommends boosting the economy by improving the nation’s infrastructure through public construction projects, encouraging Taiwanese firms based in China to return home, attracting more investment and carrying out industrial upgrades.
It also aims to improve Taiwan’s international competitiveness by continuing Lai’s policies to attract and retain foreign professional talent and ensure a stable demographic structure for a sustainable future.
The report also recommends a continuation of the government’s energy policy, encouraging the development of sustainable energy sources, a reduction in carbon emissions and the eventual phasing out of nuclear power.
As for curbing air pollution, the report recommends incentives for faster adoption of electric vehicles and the replacement of fossil-fuel vehicles.
Finally, it recommends continuing the efforts to deal with the ill-gotten assets of political parties and their affiliated organizations, improve access to historical documents, remove totalitarian symbols and right historical injustices.
The government should continue with these policies. Even though many of them might lead to to painful, disruptive or unpopular transitional periods, they are necessary for Taiwan to meet the challenges ahead and deal with the divisions of the past.
Su needs to hold his course, but he also needs to be more aware of public opinion than Lai and former premier Lin Chuan (林全).
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