in his New Year's address yesterday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) vowed to protect the sovereignty and dignity of the Republic of China (ROC) during the course of improving business relations with Beijing.
Ma said that it should be the common objective of the governing and opposition parties to protect peace in the Taiwan Strait and lead the way in developing sound cross-strait relations.
Saying the government valued public oversight, Ma said he would never ignore the voice of the people and all parties and would continue to communicate the government's policies and goals with them to promote national development.
In the address, which focused more on the economy than on cross-strait relations, Ma urged the opposition parties to help salvage the nation's economy. The president also asked companies to refrain from cutting jobs as the domestic economy likely slipped into a recession in the last quarter.
“As people are a company's greatest assets, I am calling on employers to try to avoid layoffs as much as possible,” Ma said.
The government will soon introduce a special budget for spending on public infrastructure and transportation and land conservation projects that will improve the quality of life and the business environment, Ma said.
He also urged civil servants to walk out of their offices and get in touch with the public to be able to help them find solutions to their problems.
He also encouraged them to be flexible and bear public interest in mind, adding that he hoped every civil servant would be as compassionate as Kuanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Ma vowed to push the amendments to the Organic Act of the Executive Yuan (行政院組織法) to build a leaner, more adaptable and effective government. Establishing a government that is administratively neutral is also high on the agenda, he said.
As both sides of the Strait develop closer ties, Ma said it was an opportunity and challenge for Taiwan.
Taiwan must not only upgrade its status in the world economy, but also protect the sovereignty of the ROC and Taiwan's dignity as both sides develop closer business ties, he said.
Taiwan must effectively display its political, social and cultural strengths, so it can play a leading role in the long-term development of cross-strait relations, he added.
While urging companies to take advantage of the warming ties with China, Ma said Taiwan must boost domestic consumption and not rely solely on improving cross-strait relations.
In addition to overcoming the economic challenges, Ma said it was equally important to upgrade the country's international competitiveness and that the cultivation of talent was key. For a country with limited resources, human resources are a valuable asset and the foundation of national competitiveness in a knowledge-based era, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), yesterday lauded Ma's New Year's address for touching on topics such as “Taiwan's democracy, tolerance and open-mindedness.”
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) called the address “pragmatic, useful and not too fancy,” as it focused on how to boost the economy and public confidence.
Prior to the speech, Ma and other government officials attended an early morning flag-raising ceremony to welcome the new year.
Despite the cold weather, the event attracted about 40,000 people to the square in front of the Presidential Office.