Thursday, August 28, 2008

The New Administration's First One Hundred Days:

The New Administration's First One Hundred Days:
Just Squeaking By
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 28, 2008

The Ma administration has been in office for nearly 100 days. It has undergone three months of turmoil. President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-hsuan's satisfaction ratings have rebounded significantly from a month ago. But given the larger economic picture and the market outlook, the Ma administration has little cause for joy.

According to a recent China Times poll, Ma Ying-jeou's approval rating jumped 10 percentage points, to 46 percent. Liu Chao-hsuan's approval rating also reached a new high at 42 percent. Public confidence in his administration rose to 59 percent. But 42 percent of the public remained unhappy with his cabinet's performance. Among his cabinet members, Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng received the highest approval rating. The logical conclusion is that the Ma administration's and Liu cabinet's increased approval ratings reflect increased dissatisfaction with the Chen family's money-laundering scandals. The public supports the Ma administration primarily because they want clean government and prosecution of corruption. But the economic downturn is also a reason for the Chen Shui-bian administration's downfall. For the public on Taiwan, scandals must be investigated. But the economy must also be revived. After all, the economy is the peoples' lifeline.

Unfortunately the Council for Economic Planning has issued a "blue light" warning for July, indicating an economic recession. Leading economic indicators show an integrated score of 107.4. Since last November we have experienced nine consecutive months of decline. July export orders fell to an annual rate of only 50.52 percent. Orders from mainland China fell 1.73 percent, establishing record lows for recent years. Given these figures, one can hardly expect the public to be pleased with the government's handling of the economy.

During the Liu cabinet's first month in office, it declared its determination to implement the Ma administration's policies. It promised to increase economic growth to 6 percent. Three months later, this check has bounced. Liu Chao-hsuan admitted bluntly, "Since we cannot achieve it, all we can do is explain why not." Why isn't the economy growing as fast as predicted before the presidential election? One. Global growth is slower than expected. This includes the US subprime mortgage crisis, which has had more serious repercussions than expected. Two. Mainland tourism to Taiwan. Domestic consumption has not been as great as expected. Policies to stimulate domestic demand will require more time to take effect. Unfortunately time waits for no man. Premier Liu is a smart man. He is well aware of his situation. Ma Ying-jeou can't give Liu much more leeway during Ma's first term.

The Liu cabinet took office two months ago. It hastily responded to rising oil prices. It got its lumps attempting to curb inflation. Liu set a six month deadline for himself when he introduced his budget and policy measures. Soon afterwards, the typhoon season began. Premier Liu was forced to deal with flood control problems that have been out of control for years. He revised his six-month budget and policy plans, and started over, determined to take a longer term approach to problems. This time he gave his cabinet and the administration a one and a half year time frame. Frankly, both the six month and one and a half year time frames are bizarre and unprecedented. The Chen Shui-bian administration set for itself five year and eight year time frames, and would have preferred time frames that stretched past 2008 or even 2012.

Liu Chao-hsuan doesn't have as much time to spare. The Liu cabinet's department heads are seasoned veterans who have returned to the battlefield for one last battle. They cannot allow themselves that much time. The county magistrate and city mayor elections will be held next year. The legislative elections will be held the year after that. Premier Liu's cabinet can serve only as Ma Ying-jeou's vanguard. After that, the baton gets passed to a "Committee to Re-elect the President." But if the vanguard has nothing to show, it will be impossible for any re-election committee to win a second term. The challenges the Liu cabinet faces are daunting.

How much has the Liu cabinet done over the past three months? Actually, quite a bit. It has allowed direct cross-Strait weekend flights, something prohibited for the past eight years. It has allowed mainland tourists to visit Taiwan. It has lifted the cap on mainland-bound investments. It has allowed Taiwan businesses to return to Taiwan and list their companies on the Taiwan stock exchange. Unfortunately cross-Strait economic policy has failed to achieve the expected results. Merely loosening cross-strait restrictions on the economy has a limited impact. Does the administration have another card it can play? So far, we see nothing. Premier Liu has been in office nearly 100 days. He told the media that after the Olympics he would start anew, implementing policies much more rapidly. Premier Liu knows that if cross-Strait policy measures can be implemented more swiftly than in the past, the economic situation may improve more swiftly than originally expected. The question is, can they be? What if the mainland economy declines following the Beijing Olympics? For the moment we can't say. The only certainty is that if the Liu cabinet bases its economic performance exclusively on uncertain mainland factors, the risk is considerable.

The Ma administration's polls numbers have rebounded this month. The Legislative Yuan has adjourned. The Chen family's money-laundering scandal has erupted. The Liu cabinet is outside the storm circle. But the Legislative Yuan will convene again in September. The Liu cabinet will inevitably have to face these problems. Only alleviating the domestic and international factors behind Taiwan's economic slump will win public applause.

中國時報  2008.08.28
百日新政 只能算勉強及格



偏偏經建會才公布的七月份景氣燈號轉入代表低迷的藍燈,其中可判斷未來景氣走勢的領先指標綜合分數一○ 七.四,是自去年十一月起,連續第九個月下滑。七月外銷訂單年增率降到只有五.五二%,來自中國大陸的訂單更遽降為一.七三%,均創下近年新低,從這些數字看來,要民眾對政府施政感到滿意,當然困難。






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