Sun, Aug 31, 2008 - Page 3 News List

MA YING-JEOU: 100 DAYS IN OFFICE: ANALYSIS: Campaign promises tough to fulfill: analysts

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) gave people unrealistic expectations with his presidential campaign slogan “Ma will turn things around right away” (馬上好), and has failed to improve the country’s economy despite his efforts to fulfill campaign promises following his inauguration on May 20, analysts said.

“His campaign slogans were too dramatic, and now he blames the global economy when failing to improve the situation. Didn’t he know the global economy was heading for recession when he made his promises?” said Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), dean of National Dong Hwa University’s College of Indigenous Studies, referring to Ma’s prominent campaign slogans — “Ma will turn things around right away” and “We are ready!”

The two slogans were believed to be a factor behind Ma’s decisive victory in the March presidential election, as they satisfied the public’s desire for a better economy.

Ma had accused the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of retarding economic growth because of its conservative cross-strait policy, and promised to boost the nation’s economy through his “i-Taiwan 12 construction projects” and “6-3-3” economic platforms.

The Council for Economic Planning and Development and the Council of Labor Affairs acknowledged that it would be difficult to reach Ma’s “6-3-3” goals — an annual economic growth rate of 6 percent, annual per capita income of US$30,000 by 2016, and an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent per year.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics earlier this month lowered its GDP growth forecast for this year from 4.78 percent to 4.3 percent.

Tu Jenn-hwa (杜震華), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, expressed pessimism about the Ma administration’s ability to fulfill the “633” economic promise within the next four years.

“The possibility of achieving the ‘6-3-3’ promise is slim because of the global economic slowdown and inflation. The picture he drew was too ambitious, and it’s almost impossible to realize such a bold promise in his four-year term,” he said.

Ma’s administration has blamed its failure to fulfill economic promises on the global slowdown, while pinning its hopes on opening the economy to China to achieve its GDP goal.

But Tu said Ma would fail to lower the unemployment rate to less than 3 percent unless he can create 100,000 new jobs, and such a goal would be extremely difficult to achieve even if the government relaxed the investment cap on China and managed to bring more Chinese tourists to Taiwan.

Commodity and utility price increases and a poor stock market performance also added to people’s economic anxieties, causing Ma’s popularity to decline sharply.

The Ma administration prided itself on carrying out Ma’s campaign promise last month by implementing cross-strait weekend charter flights and welcoming a 600-member inaugural Chinese tour group on July 4.

The cross-strait weekend charter flights were to bring in up to 3,000 Chinese tourists per day in the initial stage, with the number increasing to 10,000 per day within four years, creating NT$50 billion (US$1.6 billion) in annual revenue for the tourism industry, Ma had pledged.

Statistics from the Tourism Bureau, however, show that the actual number of Chinese visitors amounts to less than 300 per day on average, with only 27 of the 198 qualified hotels around the country receiving Chinese tourists.

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