EDITORIAL: Politicians never cease to amaze

Thu, Oct 04, 2012 - Page 8

In light of the nation’s deteriorating finances, with mounting national debts and low tax revenues, one would think the government would be more prudent in spending taxpayers’ money.

Hearing President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) lecture his officials to handle the government’s finances more efficiently and seek solutions to the nation’s financial problems, many thought the central government would lead by example.

Regrettably, recent incidents suggest otherwise. Instead of being thriftier, it appears the Ma administration can be quite a spendthrift when it comes to dispensing taxpayers’ hard-earned money while lining the pockets of its own officials and that of the big conglomerates.

For example, on Thursday last week, at the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) board meeting, aside from confirming the appointment of Lin Join-sane (林中森) as the new SEF chairman, it also amended its organizational regulations to change the position from one without remuneration to one paying nearly NT$300,000 (US$10,235) a month.

Similarly, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) announced on Friday that his ministry was planning to launch a NT$1 billion subsidy program to encourage domestic consumers to buy LED bulbs. Shih said the ministry was considering offering about NT$200 for the purchase of each LED bulb.

Granted, the ministry may have the good intention of making the products more affordable and promoting environmental awareness, but taking into account the recent wrangling over the issue of the minimum wage — after a raise in the minimum wage that would have given people just enough money to buy an additional tea egg each day was rejected — many can’t help but be disheartened and question whether the LED subsidy program is just another way for the government to profit the big conglomerates.

As for changing the job of SEF chairman to a paid position, how much more brazen can the Ma government get?

The SEF said the change was made in response to the “new cross-strait situation.” The question this assertion raises is: Exactly what “new situation” is the SEF talking about?

In case the Ma government needs a reminder: The nation’s debt has ballooned from about NT$1.2 trillion when the Democratic Progressive Party government left office in 2008 to nearly NT$5 trillion four years later.

Data from the National Treasury Agency showed that the per capita national debt was NT$216,000 and that, as of the end of July, the central government was carrying a long-term — more than one year — debt of NT$4.8745 trillion, to be exact.

“It is important for us to be thriftier. Finding ways to generate more revenue is crucial, too,” Ma said as recently as July at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) weekly Central Standing Committee meeting, during which Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) was invited to report on the state of the nation’s finances.

However, observing the action of his government, it appears Ma cannot practice what he preaches and cannot empathize at all with what people are enduring.