Thursday, May 15, 2008

Government Business Collusion Must End

Government Business Collusion Must End
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 15, 2008

Vice President-elect Vincent Siew recently resigned his position as Chairman of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, an NGO he personally founded. As predicted, most observers approved of his action. On the surface, the foundation bears no responsibility for matters related to national defense, diplomacy, or economics and finance. It has no necessary connection with government matters. But the position of Vice President is a solemn one. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety Mr. Siew was right to resign.

The same standards must be applied to senior officials of other political parties. Miss Tsai Ying-wen is a candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party chairmanship. She also heads two companies: TaiMed Biologics and the Taiwan Rubber Industries Association. Miss Tsai nurtured these two companies from birth. Their purpose is to organize Taiwan's biotechnology talent and develop related industries. The companies are of course for profit enterprises. Miss Tsai is expected to be successful in her May 18 bid for the DPP party chairmanship. Until then the DPP will still be the ruling party. Even though only two days remain between May 18 and May 20, for the chairman of the ruling party to be a chairman of profit-making enterprises, even for a short period, could invite public criticism and taint her public image. Even though after May 20 the DPP will be in the opposition, it will still hold one-fourth of all the seats in the Legislative Yuan. The DPP Chairman's potential conflicts of interest will surely be the focus of public attention.

Another candidate for the DPP Chairmanship, Koo Kwang-ming, also has business undertakings, If he is elected he will also have conflict of interest issues. But the public is particularly concerned with TaiMed Biologics and the Taiwan Rubber Industries Association, because political influence plays a key role in these two companies. According to news reports, TaiMed Biologics has a total investment of 600 million NT. The Executive Yuan Development Fund accounts for about 40%. Beginning this year, the National Development Fund approved a 30% investment in the Taiwan Rubber Industries Association. These two cases make Tsai Ying-wen's conflicts of interest quite clear. The Chairman of the DPP can influence dozens of members of the Legislature. Is there really no problem with the appearance of impropriety? Tsai Ying-wen said that if she is elected, she will resign as chairman of TaiMed Biologics. But this is not enough to ease public concerns. Even if she resigns as chairman of these two companies, family members can serve in her stead. The conflict of interests will remain. Therefore, to truly avoid the even the appearance of impropriety, Miss Tsai and the Executive Yuan Development Fund must adopt even stricter measures.

Concern over collusion between government and business targets collusion, not individuals. This is not selective sided criticism directed exclusively at the Democratic Progressive Party or Tsai Ying-wen. No one who wields government authority may have commercial conflicts of interest. After May 20, the DPP's authority will be diminished. The new ruling Kuomintang will need more stringent external supervision. This includes the Kuomintang President, Vice President, cabinet members, Party Chairman, Honorary Chairman, Vice Chairman, Central Standing Committee, Secretary-General, and Party Chiefs. As long as they wield political authority or can influence it, they must make their financial assets and the financial assets of their next of kin public, for all to see. This includes investments, stocks, and companies they own or for which they consult. Tsai Ying-wen is the CEO of TaiMed Biologics. She campaigned for tax exemptions only after she resigned her post as Vice Premier of the Executive Yuan. Even then, it was inevitable that the public would question her actions. When it comes to domestic economic activity or cross-strait SEF negotiations relating to cross-strait business opportunities, Taipei to Beijing policy, or KMT to CCP dialogue, everyone must be treated equally, according to the same standards.

We would like to remind politicians of the ruling and opposition parties: avoiding conflicts of interest is not merely a legal issue. It is not merely an issue of revolving doors. It is not something the Public Service Act can cover. As a result, even the founding of Taiwan Goals is alleged to be entirely legal, no evidence of corruption has been found in the PNG diplomatic relations case, and Wu Shu-chen's diamond watch was merely borrowed. In the end such arguments convince no one. An amendment to the laws on blind trusts sits idle in the Legislative Yuan. It requires public officials to declare their assets and property, and attempts, as much as possible, to eliminate institutional gray areas. In Ma Ying-jeou's remarks to his new cabinet members, he made particular mention of the need for "honesty, caution, and diligence." Cabinet members may not accept gifts or free hospitality. Since the party's cabinet members must abide by these rules, should Party Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen, and Standing Committee members be exempt? Since one may not even accept gifts, policy decisions that Involve even larger interests require even more discretion.

May 20 will be the starting point for the second change of ruling parties on Taiwan. After enduring years of intolerable corruption, the public is demanding clean government. Those who play in the mud and are already dirty may have trouble understanding the intensity of public outrage. We would like to take this opportunity to remind them. If these political big shots refuse to distance themselves from corrupt practices until they are struck by wave after wave of criticism, it will alread be too late.

中國時報  2008.05.15
政商糾葛 要當機立斷

  副總統當選人蕭萬長先生日前辭去其一手創辦之「兩岸共同市場基金會」董事長一職,外界大都予以肯定。就表面上看,這個基金會並未負擔國防、外交、財經周邊 業務,未必與政務推展有任何牽連;但是以副總統職位之崇隆,當然要避免任何可能的瓜田李下,故蕭先生辭去職位,絕對是謹守分際的表現。

  用同樣的標準,我們也要檢視其他黨政高層的兼職情形。目前正在參選民進黨主席的蔡英文女士,也是宇昌、台懋兩家公司的負責人。這兩家公司都是蔡女士一手催 生,其目的之一固然是整合台灣生技人力、帶動相關事業的發展,但無論如何,公司就是公司,當然要以營利為目的。外界預期,蔡女士將可順利於五月十八日之黨 主席選舉勝出。屆時,民進黨還是執政黨,雖然離五二○僅僅剩下兩天,但執政黨主席即使是短時間擔任營利事業董事長,在形象上都是惹人非議的。即使在五二 ○之後民進黨是在野黨,但該黨在立法院仍然擁有四分之一的席次。民進黨主席的利益與政治分際要如何拿捏,絕對是大家關注的焦點。

 當然, 另一位民進黨主席參選人辜寬敏也有經營事業,萬一他當選恐怕也有政商分際的問題。但是,外界之所以特別關注宇昌與台懋公司,是因為「政治力」在這兩家公司 裡扮演了重要的角色。據報載,宇昌總投資額六億之中,行政院開發基金投資占約四成;而國發基金今年初又通過投資台懋公司百分之三十。這兩案加起來,「國 家」與「蔡家」疊合的共同利益就非常明顯了。民進黨主席若能影響數十位國會議員,難道這裡面沒有瓜田李下的問題嗎?蔡英文表示她若當選,將要辭去宇昌的董 事長一職,但我們認為這還不足以解除外界的疑慮。即使蔡女士辭去兩家公司的董事,其家族仍然可以另派法人代表,利益株連就仍然存在。因此,若要真正迴避政 商之間說不清楚的關係,蔡女士與行政院開發基金就必須要有更果決的做法。

 我們關心政商之間的分際,當然是對事不對人,不會只就民進黨一 黨、蔡英文一人做片面的批評。整體而言,所有掌握廣義公權力的人,身上都不該有任何商業利益的牽連。五二○之後,民進黨所能影響的公權力畢竟較小,新執政 的國民黨更是大權在握,更需要外界嚴密的監督。國民黨籍的總統、副總統、內閣閣員、黨部的主席、榮譽主席、副主席、中常委、書記長、幹事長等等,只要他們 掌握或能影響公權力,就有義務要將其本人及近親所涉入的事業、投資、乾股、顧問,完全攤在陽光下,讓大家檢驗。蔡英文擔任宇昌董事長與推動生技免稅條例, 都是在她辭卸行政院副院長以後的事。但即使如此,外界都難免有質疑之聲。依照同樣的標準,國人對於牽涉到國內經濟活動的部會措施、涉及兩岸商機的海基會談 判、與聞台北/北京之間政策對話的國共平台,都會一視同仁,用同樣的尺規予以檢視。

 我們要提醒朝野政黨的從政人員:利益迴避絕對不是單 純的法律問題,也不是形式上的旋轉門條款或公務人員服務法所能涵蓋。正因為如此,即使鐽震公司設立完全合法、巴紐建交案沒有查到貪瀆證據、吳淑珍的鑽表有 可能是「借來的」,終究無法獲得國人的諒解。目前躺在立法院的公職人員財產申報法修正案之所以要求財產盲目信託,就是要在體制上盡可能杜絕灰色空間。馬英 九先生在其對新閣員的談話中特別期勉閣員要「清慎勤」,不可以亂收禮、亂接受招待。既然黨的閣員如此,黨主席、副主席、中常委等又焉能豁免?既然禮物都不 能收,牽涉到更大利益的政策制定當然更該迴避。

 五二○是台灣二次政黨輪替的起始點。在歷經數年不堪聞問的貪腐醜聞之後,全國人民對於政 治清明的期待都很高。在政壇打滾多時的人也許近墨者黑,不能體會現況與民意的落差,所以在此特別抒論提醒:這些政治大員當下能夠難捨能捨;如果要在一波波 批評聲浪湧現之後才開始切割辯解,那就為時已晚了。

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