Taiwan’s UK office to explain Ma policies

WORDS OF WISDOM:In response to the ‘Economist’ describing Ma Ying-jeou as a ‘bumbler,’ Sean Chen said the weekly never liked to portray countries too positively

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 1

Taiwan’s representative office in the UK will explain President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies to London-based weekly the Economist, which recently published an article that called Ma an “ineffectual bumbler,” an official said yesterday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said the office would use “appropriate ways” to explain Ma’s policies.

He said countries worldwide are plagued by sluggish economies, and while acknowledging that the government has room for improvement, he said a broader approach should be taken in judging Ma’s performance as president.

Under Ma’s administration, “we have made considerable headway in other areas,” such as the establishment of a stable relationship between Taiwan and China, and Taiwan’s improved ties with the US and the EU, Hsia said.

In its latest edition, the Economist ran an article that said satisfaction with Ma, who was re-elected in January, has plummeted to 13 percent in a poll conducted by the TVBS poll center.

“The country appears to agree on one thing: Mr Ma is an ineffectual bumbler,” the article said, citing salaries that have stagnated for a decade and what it called Ma’s failure to paint a more hopeful future for Taiwan’s export-reliant economy.

Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said Taiwan is facing challenges amid a stagnant global economy and pledged that the Ma administration will continue to make efforts to steer Taiwan through its current difficulties. The nation’s recent improvement in terms of economic indicators showed that government efforts to boost the domestic economy are beginning to bear fruit, Fan Chiang said.

Meanwhile, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) also commented on the article and ensuing barrage of criticism.

At a 50th anniversary event for China Grain Products Research and Development Institute yesterday, Chen said he was a long-time reader of the Economist and that it never showed a positive bias when speaking of nations and their governments.

He said the article shows the magazine probably does not understand the situation in Taiwan and that the Executive Yuan must clarify matters.

For example, the Economist mentioned the growing number of families living below the poverty line, but only saw statistics and may not really know what the government had done to take care of vulnerable groups, he said.

The government boosted provision for vulnerable groups by amending the Social Assistance Act (社會救助法) last year, he said, adding that because the poverty line has been raised by loosening its definition, of course the number of people living in poverty appears to have increased.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said the report had damaged the image of the president and Taiwan.

He said the public, including the DPP, wanted to help Ma and the country, hoping that the president would agree to a national affairs conference to tackle problems.

Additional reporting by Lee I-chia and Rich Chang