President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said that poor communication in explaining major policies to the public had given rise to public discontent and that he should include more public input in formulating policies.
In an impromptu press conference held at the Presidential Office following a protest organized by opposition parties yesterday, Ma said he accepted people’s dissatisfaction with government policies and promised to improve the administration’s performance during his second term.
“Today and tomorrow, people will be expressing discontent over our policies outside the Presidential Office, and I am here to express my willingness to listen to their grievances and make whatever improvements are necessary,” Ma said.
He listed four areas where he too was unhappy with the government’s performance, including the number of jobs created, the unemployment rate, the low increase in average salaries and the wealth gap.
The president promised to work harder to improve people’s lives during his second term.
Government information shows that over the past four years, unemployment has increased from 3.84 percent to 4.17 percent. The average monthly salary has gone up by NT$1,500 compared with four years ago, while the wealth gap has narrowed from a factor of 6.34 to 6.19.
“We have also failed to explain policies to the public clearly and caused public confusion ... There are some reforms that cannot wait, but we will take the interests of the majority into consideration when making policy decisions. We will try harder to meet the public’s expectations,” Ma said.
Facing public outrage over government policies from US beef imports to the increase in electricity and fuel prices, Ma said his efforts to push ahead with reform would inevitably be met with disapproval and criticism from some, but promised to pay closer attention to popular sentiment in the policymaking process in the future.
“I have said on many occasions that I am sorry these policies have caused inconvenience and unease to so many. We will respect the views of the people and the rights of the majority,” he said.
Ma expressed regret on Friday in response to growing public discontent over both his leadership and government policy. However, he stopped short of offering a formal apology in the face of opposition leaders calling on him to issue a public apology.
He spent most of the 30-minute press conference yesterday defending the policymaking process when questioned by journalists about his administration’s communication with the public and numerous flip-flops on policy decisions.
Ma denied the government has succumbed to pressure from the US in planning to relax the ban on imports of US beef containing traces of the feed additive ractopamine, while stressing the need to increase electricity and fuel prices to better reflect market costs.
“I have never denied that there has been pressure from the US [on the beef imports issue], but we have made no promises on the schedule or scope [of US beef imports],” said Ma, who was re-elected on Jan. 14 and is to be sworn in for his second term this morning.