Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - Page 8

Voucher plan discriminates

I am happy to see the government doing all it can to help boost the flagging economy.

However, one measure I remain unhappy about is the NT$3,600 voucher scheme.

My concern is not with the scheme’s goals, but with the details of the scheme, which I feel is racially discriminatory.

From what I’ve read in the Taipei Times, all citizens are entitled to receive the coupons. Even foreign-born people who are married to Taiwanese are eligible.

However anyone else, such as an unmarried Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) holder, is not eligible.

Having lived in Taiwan for more than 10 years, having paid taxes for most of that time and as a holder of a permanent resident certificate, I feel disappointed that the government would exclude the thousands of unmarried permanent residents from the voucher program.

Given that the vouchers can only be used in Taiwan and that their purpose is to stimulate domestic demand, I believe a fairer system should have been implemented. The cost of including permanent residents would have been minimal, both in terms of coupons issued and administrative costs. It may also have made perfect sense to include all ARC holders, such as students and caregivers, in this one-off stimulus package.

I hope that future programs like the voucher scheme will include all residents, rather than act as if they do not exist.



Divide and be ruled

The birth and death of a nation is almost always a process marked by considerable disagreement, conflict and widespread fear of an unpredictable future.

Key to a lack of consensus are the divisions between those who are politically invested in existing institutions, land and business relationships, and those for whom the status quo means a continuation of either oppression, lack of rights, lack of national recognition or lack of democratic representation.

At these times it is most important that citizens of a new country rally around easily understood and widely shared ideas of what constitute their country’s territory, name and founding tenets.

A sense of national ‘collective consciousness’ is critical if a society is to generate the political legitimacy and social authority necessary to actualize de jure self rule. It is not a process without risk, as delegates representing the thirteen colonies of the future US well understood when, faced with atrocities committed by British troops, they met in the halls of Pennsylvania State House to determine their response.

Even then opposition to a declaration of independence was fierce, especially from the southern states’ delegates who could only envision disaster for their economies and populations in a policy of rising up against the largest of their trading partners and the region’s dominant military power.

The first US vice-president, and later the second president, fought against those who argued for further negotiation with the crown, and it was only casualties from conflicts such as Breeds Hill, Concord and Lexington, along with King’s threat to hang every rebel, that finally convinced Congress to pass the historic resolution that created what would later become the US.

In the TV series John Adams, HBO’s dramatized recreation of the Continental Congress of 1775 has the delegate for Massachusetts turning to those opposing the resolution of independence, among them delegates from Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York, and accusing them directly: “Do you know, the conduct of some states from the beginning of this affair has given me reason to suspect that it is their settled policy to keep to the rear of our confederacy, come what may, so as not to harm their future prospects. There are persons in Philadelphia to whom a ship is dearer than a city, and a few barrels of flour dearer than a thousand lives. Other men’s lives.”

If the Democratic Progressive Party administrations of 2000 until last year did achieve any one substantive goal, it is that a majority of citizens now seem to perceive Taiwan, not China, as the country over which they exercise self determination, as Taiwanese, politically and culturally.

Despite the anti-democratic and obstructionist conduct of some parties and their settled “unificationist” policy of keeping to the rear while delaying the historically just emergence of this nation, an increasing number of Taiwanese are slowly realizing that economic security is not more valuable than national sovereignty, and a few hints of rapprochement are not dearer than the lives, liberty and health of twenty-three million independent people.