A few days ago, the chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development admitted that the “golden cross” — defined as when GDP growth rises over 4 percent and the jobless rate drops below 4 percent — that was predicted in February will not happen.
It is unavoidable that economic forecasts will sometimes fail, but the deviation in this case is bordering on the absurd. Not three months after the grand proclaimation of an upcoming golden cross, the economic growth forecast was adjusted downward to 2.4 percent.
In August, it was further adjusted downward to 2.31 percent, and people are now beginning to worry that it will drop below 2 percent. The jobless rate, on the other hand, has not dropped; it rose to 4.33 percent in August, and youth unemployment now stands at 14.57 percent.
The problem is that this is not the first time this has happened. Last year, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics made an equally optimistic economic growth forecast. That has since been adjusted downward nine times, from 4.5 percent to a paltry 1.05 percent. It is clear that the government’s economic estimates do not suffer from inaccuracy, but are rather deliberate attempts to deceive the public.
Its vicious ways can almost be compared to economic fraud, the only difference being that the goal of a fraudster is to make money, while the government’s economic scam is driven by deep ideological motivations and the goal of eventual unification with China.
These are the reasons the officials in charge of economic policy, who were so high-spirited at the start of the year, are hanging their heads dejectedly.
The blueprint for economic development, which is based on the ideology of eventual unification, requires integration with China, and its guiding principle is “deregulation.” After five years in government, the single policy guiding President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration is “opening up toward China.” When he talks about “moving outside of Taiwan,” what he really means is “moving over to China.” The result is that the capital, technology and talent that the nation has accumulated over 50 years of economic construction are being invested in China.
There is no way the government can know what the consequences of this will be — it is all based on ideology. The Ma administration is only evaluating the positive aspects and covers up anything negative, directing all its efforts toward making things look good in order to gain the public’s trust.
The big “6-3-3” campaign lie in 2008 was a product of this state of mind, as was the 2010 cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). When the government is working hard for the economy, it is working hard on opening up. However, over the past five years, the harder it has worked, the worse the economy has become, the more incomes have dropped and the harder life has become.
As GDP has tumbled, China’s economy has been doing better, enabling it to put more power behind its attempts to besiege Taiwan. It is becoming obvious that when Ma and his government are working hard for the economy, they are in fact working hard for China.
The ECFA deceit helped Ma reap success in last year’s presidential election. This year, the government continued on the same track as it played up the “golden cross” pie in the sky at the start of the year, followed by the service trade agreement in June and the intimidating slogan “Taiwan can’t wait” to threaten the public and deceive the legislature into supporting it.
However, things change. Last year, the ECFA deceit still had not been exposed, but this year, the service trade agreement scam has met with disaster because of the ECFA calamity and the failure of the “golden cross” prediction.
This has been a major blow to the government, but for the general public the sharp decrease in economic growth and the rise in unemployment, while painful, may be blessings in disguise if they help people recognize these scams, block the service trade agreement from being passed and allow the economy to return to the proper path to internationalization.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser.
Translated by Perry Svensson