Ma lays out his policy vision for ‘golden decade’

CLASS WARRIOR?:The president said recent moves by the government, such as the luxury tax, were not meant to punish the rich, but rather to narrow the wealth gap

Staff Writer, with CNA

Tue, Oct 04, 2011 - Page 1

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday outlined his policy vision to achieve social justice and a clean government as part of his goal of a “golden decade” of national development.

In a 15-minute presentation during a press conference at the Presidential Office, Ma said the widening wealth gap was a major problem that required immediate attention.

A society in which there is equal distribution of wealth and everyone has access to medical care, employment and housing was integral to his goal, Ma said.

To achieve these goals, the government needs to cease short-term speculation in the market, provide more affordable housing, revise the tax code and perfect its social welfare policies, said Ma, who is seeking re-election in January.

He said the reforms his administration have carried out, such as the introduction of a luxury tax and transparency in real-estate trading, were not aimed at punishing the rich, but rather to help narrow the wealth gap and bring greater prosperity to the country as a whole.

On the issue of healthcare, the president said the smoking rate and number of deaths from traffic accidents needed to be lowered and that adults had to exercise more.

Since the nation is an aging society, Ma said the government would launch a series of campaigns to raise the number of births a year to 180,000 by 2022.

On human rights, he said in February the government would publish an annual human rights report based on the UN’s standards because Taiwan has signed on to the two UN human rights covenants.

It would be the first time the nation will present a national human rights report, Ma said.

Asked whether he would consider formal discussions about the abolition of the death penalty next year, Ma said numerous public hearings have already been held on the matter.

Saying that the abolition of capital punishment has become a global trend, Ma added that public opinion would have to be part of any decision on the matter.

Asked about a promise to donate half his presidential salary if he failed to meet his “6-3-3” campaign promise made in 2008, Ma said: “It has been my habit for many years,” adding that he had been making charitable donations every month he has been in office.

The 6-3-3 pledge refers to Ma’s campaign promise of achieving annual GDP growth of 6 percent, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent by next year and per capita income of US$30,000 by 2016.

“What is really important is how to implement [the policies] and not simply trying to avoid responsibility by making a donation,” Ma said.

Data provided by the Presidential Office show that in the three years and four months since Ma assumed the presidency, he has donated a total of NT$2 million (US$65,440) to charities.

Ma said last year’s economic growth was 10.88 percent and 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“We achieved our goals for one-and-a-half of the past three years,” Ma said.

Six percent growth is not impossible, but the crisis in the eurozone and the US will make that difficult, he said.

Ma said the nation could reach a per capita income of US$20,000 this year.

As for lowering unemployment to 3 percent or under, Ma said: “This is something we have not done,” adding that the global financial crisis in 2008 hampered those efforts.

However, Ma said in comparison with the first three years after former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office, “unemployment rose more [under Chen] than it did under me.”

Later in the day, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held a press conference to comment on Ma’s policy vision.

“It’s ironic for Ma to talk about social justice, because justice has not been served during his term in office,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) hammered Ma on the “fundamentals of social justice” — taxation and housing prices.

While the average salary of workers continued to decline, the ratio of national tax revenues coming from workers shot up to 75.02 percent from 72.31 percent three years ago, Lee said.

Lee also said that more than 60 percent of workers paid more tax last year than three years ago.

The housing price-annual income ratio in northern Taiwan went up from a ratio of 10 three years ago, to 16.2 last year, he said, which shows that young people and workers are shouldering a heavier burden.

Additional reporting by Chris Wang

Translation by Jake Chung