Treading water is not the proper response

By Chen Chien-fu 陳建甫  / 

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 - Page 8

Following the Presidential Office’s strong defense of President and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) actions in revoking Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) KMT membership, it now criticizes lawmakers in the current legislative session for treading water while the power struggle continues. What caused the deadlock between the ruling and the opposition parties at the beginning of the new session and who should be held responsible for it?

Legislators are elected officials and their job is to monitor the government. Even when a session goes into recess — during extraordinary sessions or when legislators ask for leave — their salaries are not reduced. This is because they provide services for voters even when not in session. They also need to deal with government officials who ask for their support in re-election campaigns.

The public seems to think that legislators are lazy if they do not attend legislative meetings. However, sometimes legislators are absent because they are boycotting the Cabinet. Because this is their only recourse, it is a justifiable reason to bring the legislature to a standstill.

When the opposition camp blocked Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) from delivering his administrative report to open the current legislative session, many members of the public and the media felt sympathy for Jiang and other affected officials.

However, who remembers the content of Jiang’s report at the beginning of the previous session? What is different about this session? Did anyone track the government’s performance during the previous session? Nobody seems to care. Jiang’s administrative report to the legislature is more about symbolism than substance.

The confrontation between the government and the opposition at the beginning of each new session has become a routine.

The worst example of treading water is not the confrontation between the ruling and the opposition parties, it is instead the standstill that occurs when draft bills proposed by hard-working legislators from different committees are irrationally blocked by cross-party consultations or when their draft bills fail to proceed to a first reading. These systematically induced standstills, which render specialized committees unable to perform their functions, are a great disappointment to the public.

It is not especially frightening when the legislature stops working; what is really frightening is when the executive branch comes to a standstill.

When government agencies ask for funds, opposition legislators can freeze the budget or implement large cuts, but budgets are often only symbolically cut during cross-party consultations and are then passed.

What concerns the public is whether the implementation of the budget will meet policy goals. How large an increase in production volume can be created by the government’s business policies? How far away is Ma’s “6-3-3” policy goal? Will additions to the social welfare budget take care of the disadvantaged? With various measures aiming to increase revenue and reduce expenditures, why is the government’s deficit still rising? Did not Taiwan Power Co promise to downsize its organization? Why is it increasing electricity prices? Will all the problems threatening the economy, democracy, housing and cross-generational justice be resolved? Why did so many civic groups and movements opposing the government suddenly appear?

Who is it that is treading water?

Chen Chien-fu is the coordinator of Monitoring Internet Video on Demand, Citizen’s Congress Watch.

Translated by Eddy Chang