Government answerable to the youth about ECFA

By Fu Weiche 傅偉哲  / 

Sat, Dec 26, 2009 - Page 8

On Dec. 14, student associations from National Taiwan University (NTU), National Taiwan Normal University and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology invited Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to attend a forum at NTU this weekend to explain government policy on the proposed cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

The ECFA proposal is a major national policy, but it has been drawn up in an undemocratic way. The public has not been informed about the content of the policy because the government has failed to communicate adequately. It will affect the lives of Taiwanese, but they have had no chance to discuss it, still less make decisions.

The forum is being organized by the NTU Student Association under the title “ECFA — Boon or Bust for College Students?” Organizers invited government officials, academics and civic groups. Discussion workshops will be held for young citizens to inquire deeper into the issues. When the forum concludes tomorrow, participants will draw up a consensus report in which all participants will decide whether they agree to signing an ECFA.

All important policies should be formed and decided through a democratic process, which is why this forum has been organized in the spirit of deliberative democracy. Hopefully the government will take a similar attitude when deciding on policies, in accordance with democratic principles.

As chief of the country’s executive team, Wu should be answerable not just to the legislature, which represents the public, but to the public as a whole. All the more so given that the ECFA proposal is a policy with far-reaching implications. Consequently, the premier is duty-bound to give the public a proper and thorough explanation. He should not pass this responsibility on to the Ministry of Finance alone on the grounds that “they are the experts.”

If even the premier can’t explain the ECFA policy, how can the public have faith in the ability of the executive team he leads to carry it out, or indeed to find effective solutions for Taiwan’s economic problems?

We would also like to invite Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), National Youth Commission Minister Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) and Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to attend the forum. If an accord is to be signed with China, surely the council has a responsibility to explain it. Youth unemployment will soon top 16 percent, and wages keep falling every year. Will an ECFA be of any help to the young?

The two international human rights covenants recently signed into law by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) are more than just a list of articles — the interior minister should demonstrate how an ECFA would serve to protect the right to work and other human rights.

Any major policy that is signed will have a bearing on the future of the younger generation. Those in government should be answerable to the public, and above all they are duty-bound to explain their policies to the young citizens who in future will carry on the task of Taiwan’s development. We hope Wu and members of his Cabinet will live up to this responsibility. The ECFA policy must be decided in a democratic way. Please reveal all the information, make space for discussion and let the public have the final say!

Fu Weiche is president of the NTU Student Association. The opinions stated in this article represent the views of autonomous student bodies at NTU, National Yang Ming University, National Taipei University, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, National Taiwan Normal University, Fu Jen Catholic University and Shih Hsin University, and of the Federation of Medical Students in Taiwan.