There are people who are incapable of saying what they mean, or meaning what they say, and what they say cannot be trusted: Promises are blithely made and rarely kept. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is one of them.
Any person with an ounce of integrity would blush when caught telling a fib. Not the professional liar. Even when found out they just spout more fabrications.
During the 2008 presidential election campaign Ma talked of his “633” plan, promising an economic growth rate of 6 percent, an unemployment rate under 3 percent and a per capita income of more than US$30,000 within his first term. Four years later he has failed to achieve the 633, but in this year’s campaign he had the audacity to speak of a “Golden Decade” ahead.
In 2008, he said that he would halve his salary if he failed to achieve the goals he had set himself in his 633 plan. This year, he said “taking a salary cut will not solve the problem.” He then confirmed a 3 percent salary rise for himself in July.
Four years ago, he said Taiwan would not recognize Chinese academic degrees; now they are not only recognized, but are recognized retroactively. Not only did he renege on his assurance that Chinese students would not be allowed to study here, but the government is subsidizing their National Health Insurance contributions more generously than those of Taiwanese students.
He said he would not allow Chinese laborers to work in Taiwan, only to change his mind less than six months later.
Now plans are in place to allow Chinese lawyers to practice in Taiwan and for Chinese construction firms, hardly renowned for the quality of their work, to be involved in public construction projects.
In 2008, Ma said the 23 million Taiwanese would decide Taiwan’s future, only to sign the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China without consulting the public two years later.
Four years ago, he said he was prepared to give his life defending Taiwan’s sovereignty. This year he has set aside a derisory NT$2 million (US$69,000) for the purchase of F16 C/D jets and a budget of NT$500,000 for submarines. On balance, it looks like the price he is willing to pay for protecting national sovereignty has come down some.
Before this year’s presidential election, Ma declared he was opposed to ractopamine-laced US beef imports. After he was elected for his second term, he did a complete U-turn. First he said the government had made no decisions on the matter, that there was no timetable and that no assurances had been given to US officials. Then he pushed for an extraordinary session of the legislature in which legal procedures were put in place to pave the way for US beef imports.
Before this year’s election, Ma failed to mention that CPC Corp, Taiwan and Taiwan Power were facing bankruptcy, only bringing it up when he had secured his second term. Instead of conducting a thorough management shakedown, or addressing the black holes of their finances and operating costs, his solution was to announce soaring fuel and electricity bills “to reflect costs.”
Again, before this year’s election, Ma said he would celebrate his re-election by gifting the TAIEX with a new version of the capital gains tax on securities transactions and just as he is enjoying his salary increase, his latest offering is that anyone earning more than NT$2,000 on earnings from dividends or interest on savings is to be liable for a 2 percent increase in their National Health Insurance premium.
Ma is a liar and this year he was re-elected as president. The people of Taiwan have done this to themselves. That’s what really hurts.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Paul Cooper