Lawmakers blasted several Cabinet officials yesterday for not accepting flowers from well-wishers, saying this had threatened the livelihoods of local farmers and flower retailers.
Economics Minister Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) and other officials in the new government declined to receive or even sent back flowers sent to congratulate them on their inauguration on Tuesday.
The response, apparently in support of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) insistence on frugality and probity in the new government, is likely to hurt the flower industry, the lawmakers said.
At a Thursday press conference, Ma denied that the new government had a “no flower” policy, but enough officials have rejected flowers to create a backlash in the market.
According to local media reports, the refusal by Cabinet members to accept flower wreaths and bouquets on Inauguration Day alone cost Taipei’s 300 flower shops millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) told a press conference yesterday that Ma promised during his election campaign to set up a specialized flower production area in central and southern Taiwan, but if more officials reject flowers in the future, it will deal a blow to those ambitions and the flower industry.
KMT Legislator Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏), who represents Changhua County, one of the nation’s main horticultural centers, said that flower prices have been low this year while production costs have been rising.
This year’s legislative and presidential polls had stimulated demand for flowers and thus helped flower farmers, but that boost may be short-lived with government officials not buying or sending flowers, Lin said.
The lawmaker urged Ma to remember a campaign promise he made in Changhua to build Taiwan into “an island of flowers” if elected president.
Another KMT lawmaker, Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛), said that efforts to build a clean government should not go overboard.
Pan said the new government should encourage spending to stimulate economic growth as the nation’s level of personal savings is still high.
She added that government heads should not reject flowers because giving flowers will beautify the environment and energize the flower market.
Lin Hsiu-te (林秀德), director-general of the Taiwan Florists’ Transworld Delivery Association, urged Ma to keep his March flower pledge and not reject flowers.
Lin also expressed worries that the impact of the “no flower” campaign would spread to other parts of society, like the one initiated by former premier Yu Shyi-kun in 2002.
Kuo Hui-ling (郭惠玲), office director for KMT Legislator Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田), said it was ironic that Council of Agriculture head Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) said just a day earlier that the council would help every farmer earn an annual income of NT$1 million (US$32,787).
“How can that goal be achieved if no ministers accept flowers?” she asked, urging Chen to speak up for flower farmers.