Though echoing the need to remake the government, a group of scholars yesterday dismissed draft bills put forth by the Cabinet to achieve the goal as both disoriented and passive.
They noted that the plan to shrink the number of government employees by 6.4 percent before May 2004, in particular, is irrelevant, as the cut will consist mainly of non-essential workers.
"It seems to me that many officials are obsessed with slimming down the government when mapping out the reform plan," Wu Chyung-en (吳瓊恩), who teaches public administration at National Chengchi University. "But I believe policymakers should focus more of their attention on what services the government plans to provide."
On April 24, the Cabinet unveiled three draft bills aimed at restructuring the executive branch. The undertaking, first broached by the former KMT administration, has accomplished little to date, owing to political and institutional resistance.
Wu said he found it improper to treat citizens as customers, as ties between the "governors" and the "governed" are much more complex than that of clients and private enterprises.
In plugging the reform plan, officials have vowed to make the government more dynamic and as friendly as a private firm in a free market to stay viable.
"As customers, the citizens may only want to be served and refuse to participate in public affairs," Wu said. "I doubt such interplay between the people and the government is healthy."
He said it is unrealistic for the government to whole-heartedly imitate the private sector -- as the latter can afford taking risks in the pursuit of profits while stability tops the concern list of the former.
Despite the criticism, Wu said he had no recipe for the policymakers except that they should endeavor to enhance peoples' trust in the government.
"In Singapore and Japan, the public sector commands more respect from the citizenry than its private counterpart" he pointed out.
Yu Chih-li (余致力), a professor of public administration at Shih Hsin University, said he doubted the planned cuts of government employees would improve its efficiency.
The Cabinet has said it plans to cut 14,257 employees, most of whom are security guards, technicians and contracted clerks.
Yu noted that those workers, non-essential in nature, have no bearing on policy-making.
"I don't see how the government, by keeping its bureaucracy intact, can upgrade its efficiency," he said.
To avoid a backlash, the government has said it would provide monetary incentives for early retirement.
Yu predicted that those who are able to find better employment would exploit the measure while those who cannot will stay.
"This way, the government will be staffed by second-rate workers," he said.
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