Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 3 News List

[ THE CHEN YEARS: 2000 ~ 2008 ] ANALYSIS: Chen leaves mixed legacy

MISSED CHANCES? Some analysts said his cross-strait policy made the international community clear on where Taiwan stands, but others said that it hurt economically

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice President Annette Lu leans forward in pain after she and President Chen Shui-bian were shot during their tour of Tainan on March 19, 2004, the day before the presidential election.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which came to power in 2000 after half a century of dominance by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), will leave a mixed legacy, analysts said yesterday.

During its two terms in office, the DPP remained a minority government. It failed to win an absolutely majority of seats in legislative elections in 2001, 2004 and last year.

The high turnover of premiers — six in eight years — and Cabinet officials characterized its eight years in office.

Critics often said the frequent changes made it difficult to sustain consistent policies and provide adequate oversight.

The completion of the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道), the Taiwan High Speed Rail and the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit System — all long-stalled projects during the KMT government — were often cited in response.

“Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp [THSRC] wouldn’t have finished the project without the government’s staunch support,” said Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明), a political commentator, referring to government help for the once capital-starved THSRC in the face of strong opposition.

But Chen Fang-ming said the case also exposed its incompetence because “it didn’t come up with any measures to compensate for the impact it would have on other modes of transportation.”

Also central to criticism against the DPP government has been the “lackluster” economy.

But the Executive Yuan said Taiwan achieved steady economic growth over the last eight years and its consumer price index (CPI) registered relatively slow growth despite surging prices of international raw materials and crude oil.

“Taiwan’s economic growth averaged 4.1 percent between 2000 and 2007, and reached 5.23 percent in the last four years, outperforming South Korea’s 4.7 percent. The CPI had an average growth rate of only 0.89 percent between 2000 and 2007,” it said.

Tu Jenn-hwa (杜震華), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, however, offered a different interpretation.

The figures showed Taiwan was doing “just fine” in comparison with other countries, but it was still “below par,” considering its previous performance, Tu said.

“The global economy experienced its fastest growth over the past 30 years between 2005 and 2007. Hong Kong and Singapore boosted their rates to between 7 and 8 percent. Apparently Taiwan didn’t seize the chance, or the rate could easily have been 6 percent,” Tu said.

Tu said Taiwan lost out on economic growth because of its “conservative” cross-strait policy.

The Swiss-based International Institute for Management and Development ranked Taiwan 13th for global competitiveness in its 2008 report released on Wednesday, after the country had declined for two consecutive years to 18th place last year.

Of all the sub-factors included in the survey, Taiwan’s worst performance was in receiving Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with the ranking sliding to 44th, two notches below last year.

“The DPP government should be credited with its efforts in enhancing the nation’s competitiveness, but Taiwan could have done better without its ‘conservative’ cross-strait policy, as it halted the inflow of FDI into the country,” Tu said.

Taiwan Strategy Research Association secretary-general Wang Kung-yi (王崑義) characterized the situation over the past eight years as “hot economy, but cold politics” as well as “warm people-to-people relations, but cold official ties.”

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