Taking good care of Taiwan’s economy is the only way for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to restore public faith in him and that would require a collective effort rather than an oligarchy, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.
“Instead of feeling good about yourself, you should ask the people whether you are a good president. Social stability would be in place and people would be happy and have confidence in you if you were able to take care of Taiwan’s economy,” Lee said in his closing remarks for a forum on national economic development.
The comments followed a string of similar advice and criticisms of Ma by Lee in recent months, during which the 89-year-old described the president as ruling the country with the mentality of an “emperor” and being “out of touch with Taiwanese.”
Citing recent controversial policies of price increases on fuel and electricity and a capital gains tax on securities transactions, Lee said Taiwan is facing economic difficulties that would not be solved without visionary and effective leadership.
A good leader has to listen to not only the opinions of various agencies, but also academics, industry leaders and ordinary people before making a final decision, he said.
“You don’t make decisions with only a handful of people inside a conference room,” Lee said, referring to Ma’s decisionmaking process.
While Lee has always declined to directly criticize Ma, he said the current administration appeared to be “cluelessly courageous” in formulating its policies.
Lee said he had been particularly concerned with the nation’s status in a turbulent global economic climate even before the Jan. 14 presidential election, which was why he asked Taiwan Advocates, a think tank he established, to organize the forum.
The three-part forum discussed the issues of the change in global economic trends, the development of emerging economies and the government’s role in the market economy system.
Lee summed up his analysis of Taiwan’s economy and its challenges with nine observations.
Externally, Lee said Taiwan should speed up regional economic integration by signing free-trade agreements with major trade partners to avoid overdependence on the Chinese economy and to proceed with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) under the WTO framework.
Taiwan may have to reconsider the pros and cons of banking and trade liberalization due to the high risk to which an economy the size of Taiwan would be exposed.
It is also essential to assist Taiwanese businesspeople in China, either by helping them return to Taiwan or transfer their investments to other emerging markets, as the Chinese economy slows down, he said.
However, it would be even more important to strengthen the domestic economy by controlling rising government debt, upgrading industrial infrastructure, promoting innovation and re-establishing the agricultural sector as the foundation of Taiwan’s economy, Lee said.
Lee reiterated his proposal to stimulate domestic economic activity and create free competition that he had been calling for in recent months, including the privatization of state-owned or state-run companies, such as Taiwan Sugar Corp; CPC Corp, Taiwan; Taiwan Power Co; Taiyen Co and Chunghwa Telecom.