We keep hearing about President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “imperceptible achievements,” but are they really unperceived by the public?
A brief examination of the policies Ma proposed in his campaign for the 2008 presidential election reveals that promises that signaled benefits for China or big business have been amply met, while the opposite is true for other promises. Ma will not deliver on his “6-3-3” policy of attaining 6 percent annual economic growth, US$30,000 per capita income and an unemployment rate lower than 3 percent by next year.
He also said Taiwan’s future would be decided by the 23 million Taiwanese, but this has proven to be a lie. Ma insists on the existence of the so-called “1992 consensus,” under which representatives of Taiwan and China are supposed to have agreed that there is only one China, with each side having a different interpretation of what “one China” means — an idea that ties Taiwan to China. He said he wanted to “connect with the world,” but in reality he has only connected with China. A few days ago, the Washington-based human rights watchdog group Freedom House released its annual report, Freedom of the Press 2011, in which China’s ranking for press freedom is 184th among 196 countries.
The gap between the rich and poor has gotten bigger. In 2009, the average annual income of people in the top 10 percent income bracket was 28 times as much as that of the bottom 10 percent, the highest ratio in recorded history. No wonder students are increasingly having to take out student loans. In the academic year 2009 alone, nearly 820,000 such loans were taken out, totaling more than NT$30 billion (US$1.04 billion). As a result, many students find themselves indebted to the tune of NT$400,000 to NT$500,000 when they graduate. Salaries have fallen back to the level of 13 years ago, so that Taiwan now has 3.6 million working poor — those who have jobs, but earn less than NT$30,000 a month. There are more and more peddlers on the streets, as even elderly people and children are forced to join their ranks. Even the dead are turning in their graves because of the government’s slow response to Typhoon Morakot in August 2009, when nearly 500 people were buried alive by a landslide that swept through Siaolin Village (小林) in Kaohsiung County (now Greater Kaohsiung). Taiwan’s press freedom keeps slipping year after year, a fine example of which is the recent incident in which a jobseeker was set up to get a job as Ma stood beside her at a job fair. It is obvious who set the whole thing up, but the media got the blame.
As well as writing an 18 percent preferential interest rate for civil servants’ pensions into law, Ma has sought to secure his support base by awarding a raise to civil servants, whose average monthly salary is more than NT$60,000. These moves have deepened inequalities and caused friction between different social groups.
Taiwan’s human rights standards are retreating as the government protects Chinese visitors, but doesn’t protect Taiwanese. Ma’s government uses the judiciary to punish political opponents, to the extent that even Ma’s former professor and a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan felt compelled to speak out.
What people in Taiwan do perceive is that the rich are wallowing in luxury while the poor go hungry, and the masters of the country are being turned into slaves. That must be why former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has been calling on people to protect Taiwan by abandoning Ma. If Taiwanese care about the ways Ma has broken his promises, we will be able to bring him down and win back Taiwan.
Chou Ni-an is associate director of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG