The actions of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration since the beginning of Ma’s second term show how much ill-will officials with a false sense of urgency can generate in only five months.
Following his re-election, Ma wasted no time in announcing fuel and electricity price hikes, saying price subsidies were wrong and could cause the closure of state-owned Taipower and CPC Corp, Taiwan, as well as jeopardizing efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
A defiant Ma decided that his reform plan was correct and ignored public calls to tackle poor management before raising prices. The results were a general rise in commodity prices and a “misery index” — the sum of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate — of 7.82 at the end of August. This was the highest among the four Asian Tigers of South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
With his credibility and approval ratings dropping to their lowest levels since his first inauguration in 2008 and the opposition’s initiation of a motion of no confidence against the Cabinet, Ma again felt the need for urgent change.
He appointed a pair of confidants to key positions — King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) as representative to the US and Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) as Mainland Affairs Council minister — but left unpopular and controversial officials in charge of economic affairs.
The “presidential legacy” of developing sound relations with Beijing and “the best relationship with the US in six decades” — rather than tackling the sluggishness in Taiwan’s economy — was what was on Ma’s mind with his latest personnel decisions, analysts said.
Feeling the heat about a lack of economic progress, Ma was prompted by a fresh urge to do something spectacular. The Executive Yuan would turn round the domestic economic situation and work to bring about the “sensible economy” the Cabinet had pledged within 30 days, Ma said on Sept. 24.
His administration was not so urgent about workers’ salary levels returning to where they were 13 years ago, with Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) holding off a recommended minimum monthly wage increase of a mere NT$267.
Let’s also not forget about the Control Yuan, which is tasked with monitoring the other branches of government but appears to have done everything but its designated task.
Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) has been criticized for his behavior, including hosting a wedding banquet at the Control Yuan’s assembly hall and commenting on topics such as filial piety and sexual positions. His sense of urgency on everything but monitoring government agencies has also been noted.
Rather than a lack of urgency, it is the false sense of urgency which seems to affect government officials that raises concern, because this administration has not only failed to address people’s needs but has also arrogantly assumed that it was thinking two steps ahead. This has almost come to a point where the government would be embarrassed if it implemented policies demanded by the opposition and the Taiwanese people.
While we should not expect this pattern to change overnight, the country will be in deep trouble if the government does not stand on the same side as, and think like, the Taiwanese people, as Ma promised during his presidential campaign.