A clear pattern has developed since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008: When the political situation is positive, he is quick to jump up and take the credit, but when the going gets tough or problems begin to surface, he is just as quick to take cover and shirk his responsibilities.
That was the case in July at the height of the controversy surrounding the allegations of corruption involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世). In spite of Ma, who doubles as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, having entrusted Lin with several major posts in the party and his administration, the president was quick to distance himself from Lin, claiming that Lin’s appointment as KMT Policy Committee director had been made by former party chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄).
This was also the case in August 2009 when Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc in the mountainous regions in southern Taiwan and a landslide wiped out then-Kaohsiung County’s Siaolin Village (小林) and buried nearly 500 people. Ma, rather than reflecting on his administration’s delayed rescue efforts, shamelessly shifted the blame to the victims by commenting more than once that many problems could have been avoided if people had been better prepared and evacuated earlier.
On Monday, Ma repeated this pattern in an interview with the Taipei-based UFO radio network when he said the government should be more delicate when drafting legislative measures and be more considerate of others when implementing policy. Citing as an example the state-run Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) announcement in April that it would increase electricity prices, Ma criticized the company for implementing the hike during summer, adding that this would “naturally fuel public grievances.”
It is unbelievable to see how the president can so easily shift blame onto others. In case Ma needs a reminder, during the summer it was he who was telling the public how necessary it was for electricity prices to increase and reprimanding those who opposed the hike for not understanding economics.
Prior to Taipower’s announcement, the Ministry of Economic Affairs on April 1 had already announced that fuel prices would be increased by between 7 percent and 11 percent, effective from April 2. In other words, the fuel and electricity price hikes initiated by the government were the primary reason behind the increase in the prices of consumer goods and inflationary expectations. Yet, the president still brazenly shifts the blame to Taipower and ministry officials and acts as if he played no role in adding to the public’s financial struggles.
Even if Taipower initially proposed raising electricity prices, the final decision is in Ma’s hands, so to shift the blame onto the state firm is despicable.
This recurring pattern of blame-shifting is especially disturbing because, more often than not, lower-ranking government officials and agencies in the Ma government are made to shoulder the responsibility for the disasters created by their superiors.
This brings to mind the case of Yu Wen (余文), a Taipei City Government staffer during Ma’s stint as mayor of Taipei, who, following Ma’s indictment in 2006 on a charge of misusing his special mayoral allowance, was seen by many to have been Ma’s fall guy. Yu served time for failing to keep Ma’s accounts in order.
In view of this behavior, unless the president begins showing some backbone and accepts responsibility for his words and actions, it looks like more “Yu Wens” will be needed to serve as scapegoats for higher-ranking officials, as the public continues to suffer at the hands of Ma’s incompetence.