The Cabinet reshuffle has finally come to an end, and former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) has been nominated as the new premier. The appointment should be accepted and welcomed by all political factions and parties, and the next Cabinet, with a grand vision, is expected to lead the nation to a whole new level.
Judging from the Constitution of the Republic of China, Taiwan is closer to a presidential system. The president takes responsibility for the administrative team, be it a success or a failure, while the premier executes the president’s vision.
The constitutional design allows the Cabinet and the premier to focus entirely on administrative affairs and national development. They do not have to pay particular attention to a single electoral district, or spend time and money on attending funerals and weddings to win more votes. In other words, the Cabinet and the premier treat every electoral district equally. Compared with a parliamentary system, Taiwan’s system does have quite a few merits.
However, it should be understood that the president is held accountable for the results of the Cabinet and the premier’s policy execution. Therefore, if the Cabinet and the premier fail to live up to the public’s expectations, the president must take action and, if necessary, appoint a new administrative team.
At the same time, the premier has to accept the president’s will, concentrating on the long-term development of the country, rather than catering to the interests of voters.
The role of the premier is very different from that of legislators and councilors. The premier has a greater responsibility to lead an administrative team. Legislators and councilors strive to do their best to convey the public’s opinions, even though some proposals offered by the general public might not be feasible.
However, the premier should have a grand vision; they should not consider themselves as the “master of the legislators and councilors.” The premier must implement what is truly beneficial to the people and the country.
For instance, in some townships and villages, distributing cash is a common practice. However, after cash is distributed, the quality of public transportation in these places remain poor, while childcare and long-term care services, which affect people’s lives, are still lacking. It is true that everyone is happy to have more cash, and it would be hard to say no to the idea of receiving money.
However, without a grand vision, the heads of these townships and villages would not be able to remain in their positions for long. Sooner or later, they would lose support.
Budgets should be spent wisely. Public money can be given to those who have difficulty in making ends meet; it can subsidize children’s programs and services and hence mitigate the birthrate crisis. Giving cash to the general public is never a hard thing to do, but it could lead to a predicament as told in the story The Father, the Son, and the Donkey: If you try to please everyone, you will please no one.
In this case, when the ruling party proposed giving NT$6,000 to each citizen, the opposition party countered that the government should hand out NT$10,000. If the ruling party agrees to distribute NT$10,000, would the opposition party propose giving NT$20,000?
“Giving cash to all” should not be considered the same as the vouchers distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The distribution of vouchers was justifiable, as it aimed to boost the economy, which was severely affected by the pandemic; on the other hand, there is no legitimate reason to distribute cash to everyone. The administrative team should not consider the practice of giving out money a rational policy.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has overseen many reforms, such as of the pension system for public servants and mandatory military service. These reforms will influence the nation’s development for decades to come. It is admirable that Tsai has taken political responsibility and made such difficult decisions.
It is hoped that the new premier would carry on the president’s will and strive for the betterment of Taiwan, rather than planning for his own short-term goals or trying to win support from voters. It is also hoped that the new premier will not set the limits for himself.
By the presidential election next year, as long as the majority of Taiwanese acknowledge the effort of the new administrative team, the ruling party should be able to maintain the “status quo.”
Wang Chih-chien is the Dean of the College of Management at Dayeh University.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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