EDITORIAL: Goverment support hits new lows

Mon, Nov 05, 2012 - Page 8

The popularity of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is plummeting in opinion polls and policy implementation has come to a standstill. The administration is working hard to climb out of the hole and the public is feeling the pain. The government is coming apart at the seams and even if a policy is correct, its implementation is wrong, attracting even more criticism.

With news that the Labor Insurance Fund (LIF) is on the verge of bankruptcy, everyone is directing their attention to the deteriorating finances of the labor insurance and the labor pension systems. There is even news that a fund manager at ING Securities Investment and Trust Co (ING SITC), the company appointed by the government to manage the LIF, has been colluding with Ablerex Electronics, a company traded on Taiwan’s over-the-counter market, racking up NT$210 million (US$7.18 million) in losses and adding to the worries of workers already concerned that they will lose their retirement pension. Although this is a case of white-collar crime, the government is to blame for neglecting to manage and monitor the handling of the fund after it was entrusted to ING SITC.

As the government brings order to the real estate transactions system, promoting residential justice and the registration of actual transaction prices are important tools for promoting a more open and transparent trading information system. Offering open Internet access to real transaction prices is one important way to let the public judge the health of the system. However, as soon as the Web site set up by the Ministry of the Interior for this purpose went online it crashed. This was a massive disappointment to members of the public wanting to check transaction information and a major embarrassment for the ministry.

Following the debacle, the ministry said the crash was caused by the huge number of visitors searching for information or a hacking attack that caused the servers to crash. In either case, this should have been planned for beforehand and prevented. As a result of its lack of executive ability, the government simply didn’t pay enough attention to these matters.

By contrast, granting Taiwan visa-waiver status is not a big issue for a country like the US, but the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) still carried out a massive mobilization of its staff and set up information counters at train stations and night markets across Taiwan’s main cities to provide information about the policy in person and help explain changes to the system. Furthermore, when US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez visited Taiwan to sign a statement of intent, paving the way for more bilateral trade and investment between the two countries, he also promoted the new visa-waiver regulations and invited Taiwanese friends to Houston to see Jeremy Lin (林書豪) play.

The AIT did not spend much money on advertising, instead planning a series of activities in coordination with Sanchez’ visit, making it the focus of local media attention. This was free advertising that was much more effective than all the embedded advertising on which Taiwan’s government is spending huge amounts of money.

By contrast, the Cabinet has spent in excess of NT$10 million promoting its program to strengthen economic momentum to no avail, making it a laughing stock. This shows that what matters most is effort, innovation and execution rather than how much resources one uses.

This government has never been bothered by policy quality, practical execution, management or supervision. All it does is spend money on advertising and image building, without any control of the results.

No one should be surprised that support for such a government is plummeting.