Editorial: Reshuffle an inadequate Cabinet

Mon, Oct 08, 2012 - Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) needs to look closely at the performance of the Cabinet and quickly begin a reshuffle before the Cabinet falls apart with more preposterous acts from unfit members.

The latest example of Cabinet inadequacy was Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉), who resigned on Saturday night after posting a message on his Facebook page earlier that day about his new love affair with a former student who had been writing her master’s thesis under his supervision.

The message made Hu the center of attention only days after he stirred up controversy by posting a picture of Apple’s iPhone 5 on his Facebook page with comments which contradicted the Cabinet’s desire to encourage greater consumption of local brands as a means to boost the economy. Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) refused to comment on Hu’s controversial performance, simply stating: “He should explain my words as a spokesman. It’s not my duty to explain his comments.” He later said he respected Hu’s decision to leave the Cabinet and accepted Hu’s resignation. The resignation of Hu further weakens the Cabinet amid low approval levels and repeated calls for a reshuffle.

In the latest motion against the Cabinet, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union and the People First Party (PFP) proposed last week replacing those Cabinet officials working on economic matters because of public discontent surrounding the country’s economic woes. Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) mobilized party legislators to vote down the motion, KMT legislators Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) and Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) voted in support of the motion, while other KMT legislators expressed frustration over the Cabinet’s performance. Even KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), a member of the so-called “Ma troop,” urged Chen to be bold and resolute in removing any incapable Cabinet officials, even if that means defying Ma.

The Chen-led Cabinet, which has often been described as an “economic Cabinet,” has not achieved its goal of boosting the economy. Recent data shows that Taiwan ranked last in GDP growth in the second quarter among 12 Asian countries and has the highest unemployment rate of the four Asian Tiger economies.

As the economy remains mired in inertia, Ma’s defense of the Cabinet’s performance is unconvincing even within the pan-blue camp, and it is hard to understand why he would choose to ignore public discontent over the Cabinet’s poor performance. In a democratic political process, a responsible administration should recognize people’s needs and make the necessary adjustments to personnel if appointees fail to do their job.

In an interview published in the latest issue of the Chinese-language Business Weekly, Chen said he recognized public discontent with the Cabinet and said that being premier was exhausting because he does not have “a political personality.”

Ma, in response to calls for a reshuffle, has instructed Chen to present more concrete solutions to battle the economy’s problems within a month. The Executive Yuan is scheduled to announce new policies today that are aimed at promoting investment and boosting the development of local industry. It plans to present new policies each week, including the development of harbors in free-trade zones such as Keelung Harbor and Kaohsiung Harbor, and proposals to attract foreign investment, but they seem similar to the policies that the government has already put forward.

The Cabinet’s problem lies in its poor execution of policy. Simply presenting more policies, without the ability to implement them, will not help ameliorate the situation. It is time for Ma to recognize the Cabinet’s failure and take responsibility by conducting a reshuffle.