Thu, Jun 06, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Save us from the politicians

Many people are framing the next presidential election as a decisive battle for the future of Taiwan.

Of course, such things are said as any general election approaches. However, few would argue that Taiwan needs a strong hand on the tiller at this point in its history, or that the electorate have a clear choice.

Unfortunately, the two largest parties — the Democratic Progressive Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — have long been guilty of divisive politicking and clinging to party lines. Both have performed poorly as constructive opposition in challenging the government when needed or providing rational policy recommendations, as opposed to blatant boycotting and political point-scoring.

The game seems to be to stymie every move the governing party makes in the hope of a transition in power the next time around. Meanwhile, a legislative majority guarantees that the governing party’s legislation goes through.

The most rational voice of opposition often comes from outside the two parties.

One such case this week was from the New Power Party (NPP), which has little chance of forming a government in the foreseeable future; another was from a self-avowedly neutral Ministry of Foreign Affairs official. Both were in response to policy ideas mooted by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Saturday last week.

In response to Han’s call for the annulment of the government’s pension reforms and a reinstatement of the 18 percent preferential interest rate on savings for retired public-sector employees, NPP Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) accused him of irresponsibly handing out promises he could not keep for the sake of his presidential aspirations.

One might have a problem with the pension reforms, Hung said, but the issue needs to be addressed rationally and not exploited through populist posturing that would ultimately sacrifice the financial future of the next generation.

KMT and DPP governments have long known that the pension system needed to be reformed if bankruptcy was to be avoided and the longer the reforms were delayed, the more painful they were to be.

The preferential interest rate was introduced at a time when the general interest rate was as high as 12 percent: It is now closer to 1 percent. It was also a time when the economy was booming and private sector salaries were soaring, so it was fair and reasonable to seek ways to adjust the remuneration of public-sector employees.

Taiwan’s economic heyday is long gone. Many people are worried about their salaries, savings and pensions. A more considered approach to reassure them might be to look into how to improve the economy, or the institutions and welfare they might rely on in retirement and old age. This would benefit everyone.

Simply returning to what was long-acknowledged as an unsustainable model is opportunistic, lazy and unfair to the next generation.

Ministry official Jerry Liu (劉仕傑), in a Facebook post, tackled Han’s idea of “money-making” diplomacy. Compared with the models of previous presidents — Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) flexible diplomacy, Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) pragmatic diplomacy, Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) viable diplomacy and President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) steadfast diplomacy — Han’s model makes absolutely no sense to a career diplomat such as Liu. Again, it is a hollow, populist appeal that betrays a fundamental lack of awareness as to what diplomacy is, how it operates and what its objectives are.

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