Mon, Jul 09, 2012 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Ex-minister calls for smaller government

The recent resignation of Research, Development and Evaluation Commission minister Chu Chin-peng has once more brought government reform into the limelight. In an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen, former civil service minister Chu Wu-hsien said governmental reformation was incomplete and too many ministry-level agencies have been left untouched, adding that if the government does not downsize its structure, the future prospects for the nation are very grim

Former civil service minister Chu Wu-hsien gestures in an interview in Taipei on June 28.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: How would you evaluate the ongoing government reforms introduced by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration?

Chu Wu-hsien (朱武獻): The problem with the current reforms is that government remains far too large.

When we started reforming the government in 1987, there were about 20 ministries and committees in the government. When the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election of 2004, it planned to shrink the government to a minimum of 22 ministries and committees.

After some discussion and compromise, it was agreed prior to the DPP’s defeat in the 2008 presidential election that there would be 26 ministries and committees at most.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) came to power there were 29 government ministries and committees.

The ROC Constitution was originally promulgated for the governance of 400 million people, 35 provinces and 12 cities under the jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan [in other words, it was a Constitution designed for China.]

Despite the KMT’s relocation to Taiwan in 1949, the basic structure of government is still based on the ideals of the nation’s founding father, Dr Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), [which incorporates a National Congress, the five yuans and the Presidential Office].

It is a good thing that the National Assembly has been frozen [following a Constitutional amendment in 2000], but there are still seven yuan-level government agencies, namely the five yuans, the Presidential Office, and the National Security Council (NSC) — the secretaries-general of the Presidential Office and the NSC are on the same pay-grade as the heads of the five yuans.

These are the primary government agencies in charge of policy issues and they have to constantly negotiate with each other, but they all have too many high-level officials nominated by the president.

Take, for example, the treatment our government gives a Control Yuan or Examination Yuan committee member. Not only are they on the same pay grade as ministers, each one has a government vehicle as well as a secretary, an office and an assistant.

In addition, this huge organization also needs a large number of staff, adding to the cost for intra and inter-organization negotiations.

As I constantly tell our civil servants, a civil servant of the Republic of China (ROC) has to be good at negotiating, at least three times better than a Japanese civil servant [because of the large number of people one has to go through].

For example, the Judges Act (法官法), involves members from the Ministry of Civil Service, the Ministry of Examination and the Examination Yuan’s Civil Servants Protection and Training Committee, the Executive Yuan’s Central Personnel Administration (CPA) and the Secretariat and prosecutors under the Ministry of Justice affiliated with the Judicial Yuan.

It took about 10 years for the act to be passed and if it were not for the scandal involving “dinosaur judges,” which caused the public to pressure the government to speed up the process, I do not know how much longer it would have taken.

Meanwhile, there are currently 37 ministries and committees in the second-class government organization ranking. Although the Ma administration plans to shrink that to 29, I am of the opinion that 29 is still too many.

My reason for holding this opinion is because the four committees and ministries under the Examination Yuan are untouched. Add those to Academia Sinica and Academia Historica under the Presidential Office, the National Audit Office under the Control Yuan and the National Security Bureau under the NSC — and even if the Ma administration’s reforms pass, there will still be 30 to 40 ministries and committees in total.

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