Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou Must Consider Public Sentiment a Warning

Ma Ying-jeou Must Consider Public Sentiment a Warning
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 29, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen has won the DPP presidential primaries, and will represent the DPP in the 2012 presidential race. On the same day, President Ma Ying-jeou received the KMT's blessing in his quest for a second term. President Ma trailed Tsai Ing-wen in polls commissioned by the DPP. He even found himself in a draw or trailing slightly in polls conducted by the media. These results should have put President Ma and the Blue Camp on high alert.

The presidential election is still nine months away. What will happen to public opinion remains difficult to foresee. President Ma Ying-jeou enjoys the advantage of the incumbency. He has a variety of administrative resources at his disposal. During his three years in office, he has liberated the ROC from the previous two administrations' Closed Door Policy. The economy has gradually recovered. So why does the public think less of him than it does of the opposition party leader, who is guilty of endless flip-flopping? Is this not a paradox?

According to the averaged result of five primary polls commissioned by the DPP, Ma Ying-jeou trails Tsai Ing-wen by 7.5 percentage points, and Su Tseng-chang by 7.3 percentage points. The gap is enormous. The DPP changed its usual tactic of "waiting by the phone" and the "institutional effect" created by poll takers. But the fact that Ma Ying-jeou trailed by Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen by so much, is indeed worth pondering. According to a poll conducted by this newspaper, 36% of all respondents supported Ma Ying-jeou, and 37% of all respondents supported Tsai Ing-wen. The difference of one percentage point was within the sampling error. This means the two candidates are currently evenly matched. This means Ma Ying-jeou enjoys no advantage at all.

This result was a huge surprise for the Blue Camp. Not long ago, the Central Election Commission announced that the presidential election would be combined with the legislative primaries. The Blue Camp hoped to hitch a ride on Ma Ying-jeou's coat tails. But now Ma Ying-jeou enjoys no advantage at all. He may even be at a disadvantage. In which case his "coat tails" could become an albatross. Candidates could end up throwing good money after bad. The Green Camp expressed no objection to the two elections being combined. They already realized this could be the case. They decided to gamble and to try to win both elections. Both the ruling and opposition parties are betting the farm.

The KMT seems content with itself. Ma Ying-jeou is behind in the polls. Alarm bells should be ringing. Consider this newspaper's poll results. The key is President Ma's governing style. Ma Ying-jeou trailed Tsai Ing-wen on matters of "policy resolve." Ma Ying-jeou's score was 21%. Tsai Ing-wen's was 36%. On the surface, for an opposition party not in power to score higher on policy resolve, may seem contradictory. But Tsai Ing-wen smoothed over factional troubles within the DPP. She led the party to a string of victories. She led the party out from under the shadow of Chen Shui-bian's corruption. She won over the elderly, the middle-aged, and youth. This constituted an impressive feat of leadership. By contrast, Ma Ying-jeou remains a "by the book" person, to a fault. He often becomes fixated on trivialities. When recruiting talent, he lacks audacity. He often finds himself in no-win, "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations. All these convince people that he is an irresolute and indecisive chief executive. This is a problem he must realize and ponder.

Current polls provide only a rough impression of public sentiment. Voting will take place in nine months. By then voters may have reconsidered the pros and cons of each candidate, and arrived at different conclusions. The two candidates still have a long battle ahead of them. Ma Ying-jeou has won considerable public approval for boosting the island's economy, and for his handling of cross-Strait affairs. Clear political accomplishments such as these are something Tsai Ing-wen cannot match. More importantly, the DPP espouses radical ideology and flip-flops on cross-Strait policy. It incites communal group hatred and refuses to engage in honest soul-searching. If the DPP fails to address these matters, they will become stumbling blocks for Tsai Ing-wen on her way to the presidency. Which of the two candidates will emerge victorious? That may be decided by issues larger than the two candidates' personal traits.

As a leader, Ma Ying-jeou has a better sense of balance and a greater sense of responsibility. But he and his team are too rigid and too indecisive. They waffle constantly, They lack "true grit." In particular, Ma repeatedly panders to the opposition, while ignoring his own Blue Camp and centrist voters. This has led to an erosion of support from his core constituency. The polls have revealed this chink in his armor. Tsai Ing-wen's cool demeanor meanwhile, has changed the DPP's violent nature. She has helped normalize party politics. But just exactly who has a parasitical attachment to whom? This remains a worrying question. Is the change in the DPP's character a qualitative change, or merely an illusion? Will Tsai Ing-wen turn out to be nothing more than an "accidental tourist?"

A random poll, after all, is not an election. Before candidates they can persuade voters to cast their ballots, they must undergo more stringent tests. President Ma must confront his loss of core support. The public has repeatedly pointed out a plethora of problems. He must no longer dismiss them lightly. Leave aside other matters, and consider his choice of running mate. The DPP's more open policy has given many aspirants hope. Ma Ying-jeou, on the other hand, must choose either Siew or Wu, He can offer nothing new. Once again, he may find himself paling in comparison to Tsai Ing-wen.

2011.04.29 01:55 am









Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen's Achilles Heel

Tsai Ing-wen's Achilles Heel
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 28, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen has won the DPP presidential primary poll, and become the party's presidential candidate. She must now address the damage done to the legitimacy of the party primary by the "exclusive support" and "Tsai/Ma/Ma" controversies. She faces an even greater test. She must change her tune on cross-Strait and economic policy, and move closer to the political center.

Tsai Ing-wen has three Achilles Heels. They are: her economic policy, her cross-Strait policy, and her split personality.

Tsai Ing-wen refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus. She questions ECFA. She opposes nuclear power generation and the construction of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. Her opposition to "growth oriented" economic policy forces her to champion "non-growth oriented" economic policy. She proposes a slow down. She wants to de-emphasize economic growth, and emphasize environmentalism. The inevitable result of her proposal to slow economic growth, is to de-emphasize cross-Strait exchanges. In 2000, Tsai Ing-wen prevented Chen Shui-bian from recognizing the 1992 Consensus. By doing so, she painted herself into a corner. How can she extricate herself from her dilemma? How can she reconcile slowing "growth oriented" economic policies with promises of full employment and social welfare? How can she do so, while resisting the magnetic attraction of the Mainland? All this has made the public question her integrity, and wonder if she has a split personality. Tsai Ing-wen's economic policy, cross-Strait policy, and split personality, will be her Achilles Heels on the road to the presidency. Ultimately, they will be a test her character.

Tsai Ing-wen painted herself into a corner when she refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus, and "questioned ECFA." She must extricate herself from her predicament as soon as possible, before the presidential election. The public has no desire to see a suicide bomber who "refuses to recognize 1992 Consensus" elected president and butt heads with Beijing. Beijing could slow official exchanges, cut the number of Mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, reduce the amount of milkfish purchased from Taiwan, and reduce the number of scheduled cross-Strait airline flights. Beijing could announce that it is "listening to what she says, and watching what she does." That would be something Taiwan could not withstand. That is why Tsai Ing-wen dared not incorporate her refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus and her call for a public referendum on ECFA into her campaign platform. That is why she cannot make these part of her governing strategy in the event she is elected. Tsai Ing-wen must turn back now. She must not wait until she is forced to jump from a moving vehicle.

Tsai Ing-wen's hawkish cross-Strait policy has influenced her economic policies. According to her logic, economic development pressures on Taiwan make it impossible to reduce economic and trade exchanges with the Mainland. Therefore her answer is to overturn our "growth oriented" and "pursuit of economic growth only" economic policy, and develop an agriculturally oriented "local economy" in our villages and towns. In other words, we must diminish our desire for economic development, and support her hawkish cross-Strait policy. Tsai Ing-wen's opposition to nuclear power generation and the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant also force her to champion an "anti-growth" policy. Her political platform has become Utopian rural economic self-sufficiency. This of course is flagrant self-deception.

Cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges cannot be blocked. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian tried to block them for nearly two decades and failed. Besides, cross-Strait relations have already passed the point of no return. The signing of ECFA heralded a new era. Tsai Ing-wen cannot cut back on cross-Strait economic and trade relations. She can no longer question EFCA. She cannot justify her hawkish cross-Strait policy. She can no longer refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus. All she can do is change her cross-Strait political rhetoric, and reconcile it with cross-Strait economic and trade relations.

During last April's Two Yings Debate, Tsai Ing-wen advocating overturning our "growth oriented" economic policy. She questioned our "export-oriented" economic policy. But during the last round of primary debates, she said that "for the past four centuries, Taiwan has been a trading nation." Tsai Ing-wen's presidential primary speech surely must have been written and rewritten a hundred times. How could it contain such a glaring contradiction? Just exactly what is it that Tsai Ing-wen advocates? A nation founded on trade? Or opposition to an export-oriented economy?

Furthermore, the local economy, the cross-Strait economy, and the global economy are not mutually exclusive. They fit within each other. The global economy contains the cross-Strait economy, which in turn contains the local economy. The local economy is contained within the cross-Strait economy, which in turn is contained within the global economy. Each includes the other. As long as one starts from Taiwan, one will end up on Taiwan. How can one distinguish between "moving toward [Mainland] China by way of the world," and "moving toward the world by way of [Mainland] China?" Look at the swarms of Mainland tourists at the night market in Kaohsiung. How can one distinguish between the "local economy" and the "cross-Strait economy?" Look at the Flora Expo. How can one distinguish between the "global economy," the "cross-Strait economy," and the "local economy?" If Taiwan adopts Tsai Ing-wen's "local economy," it will be unable to afford increased welfare spending. It will be even less able to resist the siren call of the Mainland.

The presidential race has begun. Such cross-Strait and economic issues should be thoroughly debated. For Tsai Ing-wen, this presents a serious problem. This requires a public assessment of Tsai Ing-wen's integrity. Consider her environmental policy. When Tsai Ing-wen was Vice Premier, she lobbied on behalf of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. Now, with the wave of a magic wand, she has transformed herself into an environmentalist standard bearer, standing up against the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. With another wave of a magic wand, she has transformed herself from the Vice Premier who urged the swift completion of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant, into the opponent of of commercial operations for the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant, and the champion of a nuclear-free homeland by 2025. Was her about face really the result of earnest soul-searching? Or merely the behavior of an opportunistic turncoat? Consider her cross-Strait policy. Tsai Ing-wen helped concoct the "two states theory." In 1999 the theory landed Lee Teng-hui in diplomatic hot water, without and within. Does Tsai Ing-wen really intend to repudiate the 1992 Consensus, and One China, Different Interpretations? Does she really intend to return the nation to the internal social divisions and external diplomatic crises of the Lee/Chen era? Tsai Ing-wen prevented Chen Shui-bian from recognizing the 1992 Consensus in 2000. She made it impossible for Chen Shui-bian to proceed down his "new centrist path." Does she truly intend to "refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus?" Tsai Ing-wen talks of "strengthening democracy through rationality" Does she truly intend to make people wonder "What in the world is she is talking about?"

Tsai Ing-wen dismisses the 1992 Consensus as an "historical framework." But it was Tsai Ing-wen who imposed this "Tsai Ing-wen framework" on herself, in 1999 and 2004. Tsai Ing-wen refuses to divest herself of this framework. She wants the public to consider her framework a collective framework. She would have Beijing believe that this Tsai Ing-wen framework has public endorsement and support. Is Tsai Ing-wen merely ambitious? Or is she a raving lunatic?

All these questions reflect poorly on Tsai Ing-wen's character and integrity. She was a beneficiary of the 18% preferential interest rate for civil service employees. But now she denounces it. She lobbied on behalf of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. But now she denounces it. She expedited construction on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. But now she denounces it. She boasted that "Taiwan was founded on trade." But now she opposes export-oriented economic policy. Her own family's cemetery is costly and extravangant. Yet she demonized Ma Ying-jeou's late father merely over the inscription on his funerary urn. She championed clean primary elections. Yet she exploited "exclusive support" and "Tsai/Ma/Ma" tactics. Her two states theory harmed Lee Teng-hui. Yet she remains obdurately opposed to "One China, Different Interpretations." Her opposition to the 1992 Consensus harmed Chen Shui-bian. Yet she refuses to divest herself of her "Tsai Ing-wen framework."

Tsai is capricious and self-contradictory. Tsai Ing-wen's character must be able to withstand public scrutiny. Tsai Ing-wen's advantage is her clean image. But a clean image is not the same as character and integrity. As the public begins to scrutinize Tsai Ing-wen's character, doubts will arise about her integrity. The election may change from one based on electioneering skill, to one based on fundamental principles. Tsai Ing-wen has won the party primary. She must now address her policy contradictions and her split personality.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.28













Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Opinion Polls are Not Inherently Evil

Opinion Polls are Not Inherently Evil
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 27, 2011

The two major parties are conducting polls to determine who will represent the party in the upcoming legislative elections. The Democratic Progressive Party's presidential poll has led to rumors of "Mother Tsai." Some have preemptively made public the results of opinion polls, provoking a backlash, and accusations that they were trying to mislead respondents in the ongoing polls. In the KMT legislative primary polls, Luo Shu-lei and John Chiang have been embroiled in a controversy over whether "a 0.00 percentage victory is still a victory." The KMT Taipei City Party Headquarters has already decided against changing the party's nomination criteria.

Opinion polls are not inherently evil. But so many irregularities have occurred critics cannot help wondering whether candidates are abusing the polls. Is it really true that "so many crimes and deceptions are perpetrated in thy name."

Polls are merely instruments to measure public sentiment. Their primary function is to "allow public sentiment to reveal itself," to "let the numbers speak." Now however, the two major parties have adopted opinion polls as the main basis for party primary nominations. Prospective candidates have agreed to abide by the poll results. This mechanism should function as a gauge of public opinion. Instead, each time a poll is held, a storm brews. Some people are even using the polls to make trouble. The "Mother Tsai" rumors and the Chiang vs. Luo struggle within the KMT are merely the tip of the iceberg. As we can see, polls may are not inherently evil, but behold the dust that they have stirred up!

How did this all come about? Polls are in theory merely neutral tools, They must be conducted in accordance with scientific guidelines. If polls are be exploited, their credibility will be undermined. But polls are essentially neutral tools. People who make use of opinion polls do not always hold neutral positions. Politicians pay lip service to "respect for democratic institutions." But once they acquire the power to influence the decision-making process, they resort to every means at their disposal. They look for the best way to promote their own interests. For example, the DPP has engaged in an internal tug of war over the use of "Blue excluded polls," "party member polls," and "all people polls." Was the final decision on which of these polls to use really made on the basis of the high-sounding reasons offered? The party is currently conducting an "all peoples poll." Even before the decision was made, rumors emerged. Given her public image, the rumors said, the "all peoples poll" might favor Tsai Ing-wen. Therefore once the resolution was passed, rumors emerged that some members might abandon the party. In other words, the very moment the polling method was chosen, political considerations already began playing a role.

Leave aside falsified data, sampling biases, and other extreme cases. Assume that when polling organizations conduct their polls, they attempt to remain neutral and adhere to the scientific method. Assume that "numbers don't lie." One must still interpret the numbers correctly. It is not as simple as "a 0,00 percent victory is still a victory." Under direct democracy voters personally cast their ballots. During an election, a one vote victory is still a victory. But polls are based on sampling. Out of the main body of the population, only a sample is polled. This sample is used to infer the results. John Chiang and Luo Shu-lei are embroiled in a dispute. A gap of less than one percentage point separates the two. This difference is extremely significant. One must be cautious when making any statistical interpretations.

But how did the KMT deal with this controversy? First it followed the recommendations of its district party headquarters and suspended Lei Luo-shu's rights as a party member. Later it followed the recommendations of its Public Relations Committee Chairman Su Chun-ping, who urged the party to respect the results of the poll. Was the change in the party's position truly the result of "respect for the democratic process?" Was it truly the result of adherence to the scientific method, and the belief that "numbers don't lie?" Or was it the result of other considerations that cannot be stated openly? Outsiders will always find it difficult to see the whole truth. But skepticism is understandable. They may well be exploiting the polls.

Now consider the even uglier rumors, and attempts to influence voter psychology. They may be conspiracies, or they may be acts of desperation. Either way, they are old electioneering tricks. They are undeniably attempts to ensure that one's opponent loses. Such is the nature of politics. But voters on Taiwan are seasoned veterans. They long ago developed countermeasures. The atmosphere of intrigue has deepened. For example, voters have a tacit understanding that they will "allocate votes on their own initiative." When interviewed by poll takers over the phone, they deliberately engage in disinformation in order to undermine rival parties. Anyone attempting to conduct a scientific survey will find himself lost in a fog. Therefore the DPP's "Mother Tsai" rumors and preemptive publicizing of poll results merely highlight the degree to which polls are subject to exploitation.

Polls have their uses. But they can also be abused. Using opinion polls to deceive voters is tantamount to election fraud. It seriously undermines the credibility of the polling process. The myth that the findings of social science are scientifically true has already been shattered. For anyone exploring social phenomena, polls have their limitations. This is even truer if people are deliberately manipulating the polls. Democracy is better than dictatorship. Using opinion polls to determine party primary nominations, is better than having them determined by the KMT Central Committee. But people may come to feel that "so many crimes and deceptions are perpetrated in thy name." If so, then those who play with fire may find themselvess burned.

民調本無罪 何辜惹塵埃
【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.27









Monday, April 25, 2011

Flora Expo Has Ended, but the Dream Has Not

Flora Expo Has Ended, but the Dream Has Not
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 26, 2011

The Flora Expo has ended, but the dream has not. Yesterday the half-year long 2010 Taipei International Flower Exposition ended with fireworks and a parade. The public joined in with gusto. The expo concluded, a roaring success. During the closing ceremony, President Faber of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), once again called the Taipei Flower Exposition the most successful flower exposition ever held. Recalling the chaos of opening day makes the hard-won fruits of success all the more sweet.

As the chief executive of the host city, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin was presented with an AIPH gold medal. Hau is usually stolid of manner. But on this occasion, he revealed his inner thoughts and feelings, referring to the Qing poet Gong Zizhen, who wrote, "Fallen flowers are not heartless things. Transformed into spring earth, they nuture new blossoms." In the course of organizing the expo, Hau Lung-bin experienced many ups and downs, many mixed feelings. He is surely grateful to the citizens of Taipei for their political maturity. They enabled him to pass the stringent test imposed by the ongoing elections. He was affirmed in the eyes of the public as a city mayor genuinely eager and able to get things done.

Hau Lung-bin credited the flower growers, volunteers, and performing artists for their joint effort and for the successful outcome. He stressed that all of the exhibits were "Made In Taiwan," therefore even more a cause for pride.

The Flora Expo truly is a cause for public pride. It was the first international exposition held by the Republic of China, and all the elements were MIT (made in Taiwan). Everything including the design, planning, operations, and live performances, were the results of a joint effort on Taiwan. It showed off Taiwan's vitality and creativity. More specifically, the expo represented Taiwan's soft power.

The most popular features of the expo were the Pavilion of Dreams, the Pavilion of Angels, and the Pavilion of the Future. These will remain in operation until next year. The popular Taiwan Pavilion 3D theater and Theater of the Future at the Shanghai World Expo will also resume operation. People unable to visit the expo will have the opportunity to experience its combination of cultural creativity and high technology. In 1985, Japan's World Science and Technology Fair introduced advanced display systems and helped universalize digital technology. The 2005 Aichi Expo introduced a new concept of symbiosis for the earth and the environment. The 2019 Pavilion of Dreams at the Taipei Flora Expo was a memorable milestone that displayed the creative energy of Taiwan's art on the international stage.

Twenty-two cities and 28 organizations participated in the Flora Expo garden competition. Over a period of six months, the Taiwan Association of Flower Development received the most critical praise. It won both the top prize and the AIPH Award. The "Knowing Contentment Taiwan Bamboo Garden" showed off the unique character of Taiwan's tea plants and hydroponic flowers. Even the tea served at the entrance conveyed Taiwan's human touch. For many visitors, the greatest attraction was the sound of "Contentment," which expressed the view of life and the toughness of people on Taiwan.

In planning the closing ceremony, Taipei City encouraged public participation. A parade was held in the afternoon. A concert was held in the Da Jia Park Area. Fireworks as well as the night market carnival were the most beloved by the international community. One hundred fifty-two name brand vendors of street food gathered in a large park. Looed pork rice, oyster omelets, bean curd, pork ribs stewed in Chinese herbs, and deep fried chicken breasts were all readily available. The atmosphere in Taipei was joyous. A record nine million people visited. A new record was established that final day. Over 150,000 people attended in a single day. Everyone was excited to be part of the historic moment.

The curtain has rung down on a successful Flora Expo. At the same time, it is hard not to recall the ups and downs during the Expo opening. Society on Taiwan is pluralistic and open. The colorful Flora Expo was the victim of a very embarrassing situation. Prize-winning hydroponic flower growers were the target of smear campaigns by a handful of politicians, who accused them of squandering public money. During the past six months, everyone who has visited the expo has seen the care taken with the expo, how flowers are constantly replaced, rain or shine. They have all been able to see beautiful flowers in full bloom, vibrant green grass and trees. The fruits, vegetables, and flowers may have come with price tags. But creativity is priceless. Happiness is priceless. As people walk through the Flora Expo, they have only one feeling -- that 50 or 100 NT is a pittance for all the enjoyment they have experienced.

If the flowers and trees could talk they would tell people to please listen to their silent song, and not to the politicians' cacaphony. The noise emanating from politicians on Taiwan is too loud. It makes people forget the happiness and joy that surround them. Politics may paint everything either blue or green. But must we forget the other colors pleasing to the eye? The Flora Expo exhibits have put art and beauty well within our reach. This is something politicians who see only blue and green cannot see. Never mind noisy politicians. They are the biggest losers. They have lost the tranquility within their hearts.

The Flora Expo has ended. But the dream has not. Remember the pride of the moment. It was the pride of all Taiwan. Please remember how your heart was filled with of happiness. Taiwan is a treasure island that can make people happy. Cherish it, love it, No amount of political noise can stand in your way.

2011-04-26 中國時報

花博落幕,夢想不落幕!展期長達半年的二○一○台北國際花卉博覽會昨日在煙花、歡樂 遊行、民眾踴躍參與的熱情中,圓滿閉幕。閉幕典禮上,AIPH國際園藝者協會主席法柏(Dr. Faber)再次盛讚台北花博是有史以來辦得最成功的一次花卉博覽會。回顧開幕時的紛紛擾擾,得來不易的果實更顯甜美。


郝龍斌把他的驕傲獻給所有花農、志工、文化表演者共同努力的所打造的成果,他更強調,所有展覽規畫全都是Made In Taiwan台灣製造,更值得台灣驕傲。








Friday, April 22, 2011

Significance of Construction Halt On Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant

Significance of Construction Halt On Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 23, 2011

For the first time in decades, the central government has ordered construction halted on an investment project worth hundreds of billions of NT dollars, based on environmental protection, community aspirations, and other considerations. As important economic interests conflict with sustainable development, the government has forsaken short term advantage, in favor of sustainable development. We support and applaud President Ma's decisiveness. This decision may well mark a turning point in Taiwan's long-term development, from "development above all" to environmental protection and sustainable development. It represents the rise of a grass-roots movement on Taiwan, and a fresh beginning for social movements. After this, the government must be more careful about the negative impact on Taiwan's economy, industry, and business investment. It must attempt to turn deficits into assets.

Let us recall the decades long tug of war between economics and the environment. Without exception, both KMT and DPP administrations have backed the "development above all" policy one hundred percent. So-called environmental protection and sustainable development have long been mere window-dressing. Environmental groups ridiculed them as "mere lip service." Residents opposed to the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant in Ilan, Guanyin, and other locales, forced its relocation. But the central government never wavered. Eventually Yunlin was chosen. The DuPont, Bayer, and other investment projects died stillborn. The reason the central government withdrew its support was not environmental protection considerations. The reason was overwhelming public opposition. Manufacturers changed or canceled their plans. As for the Seventh Naphtha Cracking Plant, the company that developed it found itself in financial distress.

Both DPP and KMT administrations originally supported the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant was a 600 billion NT investment. It would have created economic benefits, and led to direct and indirect job creation. But deficits invariably go hand in hand with assets. No matter how much technology may progress, the petrochemical industry remains a highly polluting, energy-hungry industry. Take the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant. The amount of water it consumes, and the amount of greenhouse gases it emits, make it the island's single largest source of pollution.

Kuo Kuang Petrochemical itself estimates the cost to society at around 219 billion NT. Other scholars estimate the cost at one trillion NT or more. Never mind which figure is closer to the facts. A trip to the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant in Yunlin will show how difficult it is for a large petrochemical plant to coexist with Mother Nature. For tiny Taiwan, the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant is an intolerable burden. Moreover, Taiwan has certain unique resources and assets. Taiwan ought to abandon its smokestack industry mentality, and move towards more refined, higher value-added, higher density knowledge industries. This is the best way out for Taiwan's economy and industries.

The government understands the economic and Industrial trends, as well as public sentiment. At this crucial moment, it has seized the initiative and decided to withdraw its support for the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant projet. For this it deserves credit. President Ma has announced that Changhua City, where the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant was to be built, will become instead a wetlands park. This decision should be swiftly implemented.

We must also confront and accept the consequences of terminating the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant, and the potential impact on Taiwan's industry and economic system. This involves two aspects. The first is the future of the petrochemical industry. Once the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project is terminated, the possibility of another another naphtha cracking plant or large-scale petrochemical zone on Taiwan near zilch. The future of the petrochemical industry, of upstream, midstream, and downstream companies, all require proper government planning. If the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant is relocated to the Mainland or Southeast Asia, the government must provide assistance. It must obtain the best investment conditions. It must draw up regulations that enable it to connect and interact with industries on Taiwan. It should, as much as possible, minimize the negative impact of relocation.

The second aspect is the overall state of the economy and industry. This is a six to seven billion NT investment. The medium and long term impact on the economy and industry will surely be negative. But from another perspective, the land, capital, and human resources not invested in the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant, may be transferred to other industries. The government's plans for the six emerging industries, or local industries developing on their own initiative, and eco-tourism, can all take advantage of the opportunity. How will these industries develop and fill the gap left by the departure of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant? That will require government planning and support.

Note also the growing power of long silent grass roots social groups. The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant controversy allowed them to regroup. They now show signs of reawakening. The DPP once supported these social groups. During the era of Democratic Progressive Party rule however, they fell silent and scattered with the winds. They collapsed and lost power. But the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant controversy has given them a new lease on life. They no longer march in lockstep with political parties. They go their own way. Political parties may crowd each other out. But they will no longer be able to view these groups as their auxiliaries. Instead, they will have to cope with these new and independent power centers. The ruling and opposition parties must realize this, and how they must interact with them.

2011-04-23 中國時報









Thursday, April 21, 2011

ECFA and East Asian Economic Integration

ECFA and East Asian Economic Integration
Opening Remarks by Tsai Hsun-hsiung,
Chairman of Sinotech Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Technology Economics Group
Translated by Bevin Chu
April 22, 2011
Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

Vice President Siew, foreign guests, ladies and gentlemen, how do you do!

One. The purpose of the seminar.

I am honored to be here as the opening speaker for the International Conference on ECFA and East Asian Economic Integration. The presence of so many important people, confirms that this is an important issue. In recent years, bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) between nations, or free trade zones formed by several nations, has become an unmistakable trend. In June 2010, Taipei and Beijing signed an historic cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement, or ECFA. These two developments have had a significant impact on cross-Strait economic exchanges and trade. But more than that, they have had a huge impact on East Asian trade. Therefore, inviting scholars from nations throughout East Asia and convening such a meeting at this time is particularly meaningful.

This symposium is the result of a research project, "The Republic of China's Strategy for Economic and Industrial Technology Cooperation with the Major Nations of East Asia," which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and carried out by the National Policy Foundation.

This research project addresses the era introduced by the signing of ECFA. It asks how the Republic of China can strengthen economic and industrial and technical cooperation with the major nations of East Asia. It explores the possibility of free trade agreements. This project was divided into three parts: Regional integration in the East Asian region and its impact on Taiwan's economic, industrial, and technological development. Economic, industrial, and technological cooperation strategy between the Republic of China and the major East Asian nations. Cross-Strait economic, industrial, and technological cooperation strategies under East Asian regional integration. We hope the completion of the project will help the Republic of China increase cooperation with East Asian nations. We hope the signing of the cross-Strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) will create new opportunities for economic cooperation with East Asian nations.

The research team has held three seminars on Taiwan. It has also visited think tanks and industrial research organizations in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. It has conducted highly fruitful, in-depth interviews. Today, scholars from many East Asian nations have been invited to Taiwan, to participate in an International Seminar on ECFA and Economic Integration in East Asia. We hope that domestic and foreign experts, including Ken Waller, Director of the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT University; Robert Scollay, Director of the New Zealand APEC Study Centre; Tong Yueting, Assistant Professor at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore; Somkiat Tangkitvanich, Vice President of the Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation; Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu, Research Fellow with the Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation; and Eiji Ogawa, Vice President of Hitotsubashi University; and others, will offer wide-ranging suggestions in response to the preliminary research results of our project.

Two. Taiwan has an excellent investment environment and provides a springboard by which to enter the Mainland market.

Taiwan is a tiny island, lacking in natural resources. Yet it is a leader in information technology. It is among the highest volume manufacturers of high quality industrial products in the world. It boasts geographical advantages, high-tech production capabilities, the ability to innovate, a friendly investment and business environment. It has abundant human resources, a solid industrial base, and the public infrastructure and tax structure of an advanced industrial nation. According to "2010 World Competitiveness," a report issued by the Lausanne International Institute for Management Development, the Republic of China ranked 8th in the world. It was the nation showing the greatest improvement. If other nations invest in Taiwan, or strengthen cooperation with the Republic of China, the rewards will be enormous.

Also, with the rise of Mainland China, other nations see valuable opportunities in the Mainland market. Taiwan and Mainland China provide an advantage, because they have the same language and culture. Taiwan has considerable experience investing in Mainland China. Therefore Taiwan is the best partner for foreign investors when entering the Mainland market. Foreign investors can benefit from this. They can strengthen cooperation with Taiwan, and form partnerships prior to entering the Mainland market. This enables them to benefit from a multiplier effect.

Taiwan offers tremendous advantages. It is well suited to becoming an international R & D center, a producer of high value added products, as well as a springboard for foreign investors entering the Mainland market. We hope that when our guests return home, they can speak on behalf of economic, industrial, and technical cooperation between the Republic of China and their own nations. We hope they will invest in Taiwan, and sign free trade agreements with the Republic of China.

Three. Conclusions

First, scholars from Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan will issue a special report. Then research experts from the Republic of China will offer their own comments. The invited scholars from home and abroad, are all leaders in their own field. On behalf of this research project, they will provide solid logic and comprehensive analysis. The results will be well worth the wait.

Vice President Vincent Siew will deliver the keynote speech. Vice President Siew is my old boss. He has a wealth of experience. He was once Republic of China premier, a member of the Republic of China Legislature, Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, Minister of Economic Affairs, and Vice Chairman of the KMT. He is a veteran of the legislature and the diplomatic service. He is an expert in economics and trade, with extensive experience in political affairs, Mainland relations. and trade negotiations. He is eminently familiar with the theme of this conference. His presentation is certain to be fascinating.

Now let us give a hearty welcome to Vice President Siew, who will deliver the keynote speech!


(Opening Ceremony, Tsai, Hsung-Hsiung

Chairman, Sinotech Engineering Concultants, INC)






研究團隊已經在國內舉行三場座談會,並分赴日本、南韓、新加坡、泰國、紐西蘭、澳洲、菲律賓與馬來西亞等國的智庫與產業研究單位,進行深入的訪談,成果相當豐碩。今天更邀請東亞各國的學者來台灣,舉行ECFA與東亞經濟整合國際研討會,希望透過國內外專家包括澳洲RMIT 大學APEC研究中心執行長Ken Waller(Director, the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT University);紐西蘭APEC研究中心執行長Robert Scollay(Director, New Zealand APEC Study Centre);新加坡國立大學東亞研究中心童月婷助理教授(Tong Yueting:Assistant Professor, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore);泰國發展研究院的Somkiat Tangkitvanich副院長(Vice President, Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation)與Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu研究員(Research Fellow, Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation);及日本一橋大學Eiji Ogawa副校長(Vice President, Hitotsubashi University)等人的討論,對於我們這次計畫的初步研究成果,提供廣泛的建議。









Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Severe Test of Constitutionality of Combined Elections

Severe Test of Constitutionality of Combined Elections
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 21, 2011

As expected, the Central Election Commission has reached a decision. It has confirmed that the 2012 presidential and legislative elections will be combined. The DPP is making a great show of denouncing the decision. In fact it is only too happy with the result. For the first time in the Republic of China's history, the presidential and legislative elections will be combined. This will affect how the ruling and opposition parties mobilize. This may lead to constitutional crisis next year.

The Central Election Commission has decided to combine the elections, mainly because combined elections save money. Voters will no longer need to trudge down to the polls twice in two months. This will reduce the need for political mobilization, and avoid unnecessary friction. These are real advantages that can be gained by combining elections. According to a poll commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior, 60% of the public favors combining elections.

Elections are held on Taiwan every year. They upset the public. Political insiders are concerned as well. Short-term electoral pressures encourage populism, and make it impossible for the administration and legislature to engage in rational policy making and debate. Take tax policy for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers. The policy underwent years of planning. But each time election season came around, the process came to a screeching halt. It was only finalized last year. Former Director of Health Insurance Yang Chi-liang's attempts to implement second generation health care were repeatedly frustrated, He was so angry he declared that the biggest problem on Taiwan was annual elections.

The Central Election Commission has decided to combine elections. The Ma administration says it will promote additional reforms simplifying and combining elections. In principle, elections will take place once every two years. The first will be a central government election. The second will be a local level election. Seven elections were scheduled for 2014. They will be reduced to two. There is nothing wrong with this general direction. But lest we forget, four years ago the Chen administration made the same proposal. It failed to pass. The reason was that the DPP presidential candidate wanted to form alliances with local KMT factions. As a result, they finally decided to hold separate elections. Currently the ruling party is pushing for combined elections. It may have far-sighted ideals. But it is rushing the measure through the system. The necessary ancillary measures have not been considered. This is probably the result of election considerations.

The real reason however, is that the KMT was too successful during the previous legislative elections. It won over two thirds of the seats. By contrast, during the municipal elections and legislative by-elections two years ago, the KMT lost repeatedly. Disaffected Blue Camp voters stayed away from the polls in droves. Combined elections may increase voter turnout. They may prevent the KMT's presidential candidate from being dragged down, in the event KMT legislators suffer a defeat just before the presidential election. The KMT has been careful in its calculations. The DPP has feigned outrage at the KMT. In fact the DPP is highly adept at coordinated electioneering. The presidential election may help DPP legislative candidates increase their visibility. It may help the DPP win an absolute majority in the legislature.

The two parties conspired with each other. They deliberately ignored important institutional considerations. First, four months separate the presidential election and the inauguration. Central Election Commission Chairman Chang Po-ya said that the constitution and the law are clear on how the government must operate. Even a change in ruling parties is not going to lead to a constitutional crisis, to a lame duck in the presidential palace. Can a caretaker government that respects the Constitution respond to a sudden crisis that might occur at any moment under globalization? These include new strains of influenza, inflation, and financial crises. People are extremely skeptical. Never mind that two ruling party changes led to caretaker governments meddling in personnel appointments, and the destruction of official documents. If a government that does not respect the constitution, is permitted to act as a caretaker for up to four months, the risks to the nation will be inestimable.

In fact, this four month lame duck period is more than a crisis management problem. It also affects the constitutional process. According to the constitution, the cabinet must resign before the opening session of the new legislature on February 1. The president must re-nominate the premier. If President Ma successfully wins reelection, and the KMT maintains an absolute majority in the legislature, the problem will be relatively simple. But suppose President Ma fails to win reelection? Even if the KMT maintains an absolute majority in the legislature, the cabinet would have to resign, in accordance with established precedent. Would the outgoing president still have the authority to nominate a new cabinet?

Suppose the outgoing president wants to leave the decision to the incoming president. He might refer to another constitutional precedent. In January 2008, the DPP was routed in the legislative election. In accordance with constitutional precedent, Chang Chun-hsiung's cabinet resigned. But then president Chen Shui-bian refused to accept their resignations. He offered five reason why he was not constitutionally obligated to accept their resignations. He attempted to establish a new constitutional precedent. But at the time a new president had yet to be elected. The president still had the right to turn down cabinet resignations. By contrast, when the new legislature takes office in 2012, a new president will already have been elected. Wil the defeated outgoing president still have the authority to turn down cabinet resignations? These are slippery constitutional questions. Never mind what would happen if the KMT lost both the presidential and legislative elections. The government might well find itself idled for four months.

Consider current developments. We lack a complete set of ancillary measures. The presidential and legislative elections must be combined. But the ruling and opposition parties are locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen. They have aggressively promoted the "Bill for the Transfer of Presidential and Vice Presidential Authority" in the legislature. Its provisions cover currently serving presidents who failed to win reelection, and cabinet officials who have not been reappointed. These lame ducks may not make civil service appointments. They must freeze all major policies. But this is not the root of the problem. The ruling and opposition parties must communicate and consult with each other. They must seek consensus. They must deliberate on whether to amend the constitution. They must resolve the problems created by the combined elections and the lame duck period.

2011-04-21 中國時報










The DPP Should Encourage Beijing to Adopt One China, Different Interpretations

The DPP Should Encourage Beijing to Adopt One China, Different Interpretations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 21, 2011

Yesterday, during the last party primary debate, Tsai Ing-wen finally unveiled her Mainland policy. The result was disappointing. As usual, she resorted to her strong suit -- flowery but empty emotional rhetoric. But when she addressed policy, her rhetoric was either hollow or self-contradictory. This was especially true of her Mainland policy.

Tsai Ing-wen longer says that she does not recognize the 1992 Consensus. She says only that she will not allow herself to be trapped within its "historical framework." She said that both sides have previously repudiated the 1992 Consensus. She also said she did not know what the 1992 Consensus meant. The fact is authorities on both sides have no choice but to endorse the 1992 Consensus. The 1992 Consensus is the underlying basis for cross-Strait peace. In other words, authorities on the two sides have already escaped their "historical framework." Only Tsai Ing-wen remains trapped in an "historical framework." She remains trapped because in 2000 she prevented Chen Shui-bian from accepting the 1992 Consensus.

In fact, the "historical framework" no longer exists. Tsai Ing-wen is merely trapped within her own "Tsai Ing-wen framework." She is also trapped within the "two states theory" and "opposition to ECFA." These are all part of Tsai Ing-wen's own idiosyncratic framework. No one else is trapped within it.

The Democratic Progressive Party hopes to win the 2012 presidential election. It hopes to pacify the nation following the election. If so, it must establish a cross-Strait framework that transcends the DPP's past cross-Strait framework, and the KMT's current cross-Strait framework. In order to transcend the DPP's past cross-Strait framework, the DPP must reaffirm the Republic of China and renounce Taiwan independence. In order to transcend the KMT's current cross-Strait framework, the DPP must uphold the 1992 Consensus. It must do even more. It must encourage Beijing to publicly and actively implement "One China, Different Interpretations." This is how the DPP can liberate itself from its "historical framework."

The DPP repudiated the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations. Its main reason for doing so, was that it refuses to recognize the Republic of China and its One China Constitution. The reason it refuses to recognize the Republic of China and its One China Constitution, is that it is attempting to engage in "backdoor listing." Basically it remains a prisoner of Taiwan independence.

But the DPP has another reason for refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus. Beijing has yet to openly and actively adopt the One China, Different Interpretations position. Conversely, it is precisely because Beijing has yet to openly and actively adopt the One China, Different Interpretations position, that enables the DPP to continue repudiating the 1992 Consensus.

Suppose the DPP openly renounces Taiwan independence? Suppose it sincerely reaffirms support for the Republic of China, and ceases engaging in deceitful "backdoor listing?" It could then justifiably demand that Beijing openly and actively adopt the One China, Different Interpretations position. Doing so would allow the DPP to transcend its past framework. It would allow the DPP to transcend even the KMT's current framework, It would exert pressure on Beijing, and receive support from a majority of the public.

The 1992 Consensus is the premise and foundation for improving cross-Strait relations. If the DPP refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, it cannot maintain peaceful cross-Strait relations. Therefore the DPP should take advantage of the leverage it offers. It should proclaim that it recognizes the 1992 Consensus. It should demand that One China, Different Interpretations be made part of the 1992 Consensus. If the 1992 Consensus includes One China, Different Interpreations, the Democratic Progressive Party should express its support. If the 1992 Consensus does not include One China, Different Interpretations, then the DPP can refuse to offer its support. This would be a legitimate political position. Beijing would probably respond reasonably. If so, most people would back the Democratic Progressive Party on this matter.

The 1992 Consensus is the premise and foundation for improving cross-Strait relations. But it has fallen into the gap between Taipei's One China, Different Interpretations position, and Beijing's Different Interpretations of One China position. The Ma administration has persuaded Beijing to refrain from openly repudiating One China, Different Interpretations. This is where the DPP can transcend the KMT. It can encourage Beijing to openly adopt the One China, Different Interpretations position. This would enable the DPP to gain the upper in its struggle with the KMT. It would enable the DPP to seize the initiative when dealing with Beijing.

On March 22, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was elected president. Four days later, on March 26, Chairman Hu Jintao spoke to President George W. Bush on the Bush/Hu hotline. He said "[The two sides acknowledge that there is only one China, but have different definitions of what that One China is." This has been interpreted as One China, Different Interpretations. But in the Chinese language version of the Xinhua News Agency transcript, no such language appears. And Beijing has never mentioned it since. Three years later, on March 26 this year, Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi said: "Currently relations between the two sides are good. They embody the One China principle and the 1992 Consensus. The two sides have different interpretations of the meaning of One China, Nevertheless we are able to seek common ground, This is the essence of the 1992 Consensus." On its third anniversary, Wang Yi appears to have reintroduced the One China, Different Interpretations position on the Bush/Hu Hotline. Apparently Beijing knows that the 1992 Consensus must include One China, Different Interpretations. That is the only form of 1992 Consensus acceptable to the public on Taiwan.

Unless the DPP wants to precipitate another cross-Strait political conflagration, it cannot repudiate the 1992 Consensus. In the Democratic Progressive Party's struggle to avoid coercion, it has passively accepted the 1992 Consensus. It has also struggled to avoid the Ma adminstration or the Beijing authorities from making further progress with One China, Different Interpretations. To wit, Wang Yi's talk in March. The DPP cannot repudiate and reject the 1992 Consensus. But it can use it to gain leverage. It can raise the ante and improve its bargaining position by transcending One China, Different Interpretations.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.21












Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant Relocation Should be Swift

Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant Relocation Should be Swift
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 20, 2011

The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project is about to undergo its fifth EIA review. Environmental groups have announced anti-Kuo Kuang protest marches all over the island. Environmental groups are making a great show of opposing the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. This is reminiscent of similar scenes during the Chen administration. This time however, it is the Ma administration that must deal with the problem. The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant reflects problems with Taiwan's industrial rise and transformation. These problems require solutions. Taiwan has limited land and limited resources. It is caught between demands for environmental protection and economic development. The questions it must answer are multiple choice questions, not yes or no questions. Assuming it still has a choice, the Ma administration must be decisive. It must seek the best solution. If it must relocate then it must act boldly. It should not allow the matter to drag on, and degenerate into a insoluble political controversy.

The petrochemical industry is a key industry. Many developing economies depend upon their governments to vigorously promote the petrochemical industry. And so it is on Taiwan, The petrochemical industry has brought a great deal of foreign exchange into Taiwan's economy. It has made a substantial contribution to economic growth. But environmental consciousness has increased. The petrochemical industry is water hungry, highly polluting, and socially divisive. According to EPA statistics, during the two decades between 1981 and 2002, 60 percent of the major environmental protests on Taiwan involved the petrochemical industry. Environmental disputes have continued. Most people acknowledge the petrochemical industry's role in economic development. But they do not want petrochemical plants in their own backyard. The Formosa Plastics Group's Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant project in Ilan met with resistance. At one time it was to be relocated to Mainland China. Under intense pressure from then President Lee Teng-hui, it was relocated to Yunlin. Since then, further development of the petrochemical industry on Taiwan has been difficult.

The petrochemical industry has made enormous contributions to the national economy. But as early as 1978, Premier Sun Yun-suan adopted World Bank economist Bela Balassa's recommendation that "non-oil producing countries develop technology-intensive industries, and not the petrochemical industry." As a result, plans for the Petrochemical Plant Number Five were shelved. A decision was made to transition gradually to lower energy consumption and technology-intensive industries. This led to the development of the Hsinchu Science Park.

In 1981, the global oil crisis ended. The CEPD reconsidered its plan for the petrochemical industry. It decided to resume development of the petrochemical industry. During the 1990s, the government continued its political liberalization. Environmental protests made development of the petrochemical industry difficult. The government was unwilling to give up. But Mainland China and the Southeast Asian countries long ago replaced Taiwan as a source of cheap labor. Profits from petrochemical exports fell. The unavoidable question was did we really need to pay such a high political, social, and environmental price for the petrochemical industry?

During the Chen administration, the government accepted the argument that we still need a petrochemical industry. It finalized plans for the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. Environmental groups resisted full force. EIA members attempted to block the project, but to no avail. Then Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen personally championed the project, making telephone calls "expressing concern." For these policy decisions, then Premier and DPP presidential primary candidate Su Tseng-chang was forced to issue a public apology. But when Su and Tsai simultaneously signed the anti-Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant petition, the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project inevitably became a political football.

Based on the need for industry clusters, Yunlin was the first choice. The public in Yunlin had already accepted the Sixth Naptha Cracking Plant. But they did not want the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant in addition. Changhua, adjacent to Yunlin, vigorously fought for the plant. When the decision was made to build the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant in Changhua, the government hardly expected so much pressure from environmental groups. Last year, the Changhua County Environmental Protection Union won the Executive Yuan Sustainable Development Award. This group is explicitly opposed to the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. But environmental groups are not the only ones opposed. Even Public Works Commissioner Lee Hong-yuan, a new member of Premier Wu's cabinet, signed the anti-Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant petition. His reasoning was simple. Changhua and Yunlin both have serious problems with ground subsidence. They are not suitable for further petrochemical industry development.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs attempted to resolve the environmental disputes. It stressed that the strictest environmental standards had been met. The survival of dolphins was not threatened, because a migratory corridor had been provided. But the fact that the dolphins must use the migratory corridor means they have already been affected. The Ministry of Economic Affairs stressed also that old petrochemical plants must be phased out. If the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant is not constructed, then the old plants cannot be decommissioned. The old plants would have an even greater impact on the environment. But the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant will also become old some day. Ten years down the road, will Taiwan face another Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant style controversy?

Thirty years ago, Sun Yun-suan saw the need for industrial transformation. Thirty years later, we once again face a difficult choice. Do we have a premier with Sun's boldness and vision, able to make critical decisions about Taiwan's industrial development? President Ma Ying-jeou personally stood on the front lines when he attended an anti-Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant banquet. The event was subject to political manipulation, making deeper understanding of grassroots environmental concerns impossible. But President Ma personally visited the Ta-Chen wetlands and sampled the oysters. Surely he realizes that ordinary citizens at the grassroots level depend on nature for their livelihood. The Chen administration considered relocating the plant when it was in office. The Ma administration should consider relocating the petrochemical industry. Do not destroy the beautiful environment that Mother Nature has bestowed upon Taiwan.

國光石化若須外移 即應當機立斷
2011-04-20 中國時報









Monday, April 18, 2011

From Opportunism and Bigotry to Housing Justice

From Opportunism and Bigotry to Housing Justice
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 19, 2011

The legislature swiftly passed the luxury tax. The Executive Yuan may begin levying the tax in advance, on June 1. What is the significance of the luxury tax? It may help prevent soaring housing prices. It also represents an important event in our political evolution. The government must assist the underprivileged and the middle class. Only then can we promote social equality and social justice.

In the past, when government authorities dealt with housing prices, they used the free market as an excuse. They said they could not interfere. They used the free market as an excuse for inaction. But limited land and housing have been the monopoly of a handful of consortiums. They, along with capitalists and opportunists have kited housing prices. Housing has become a luxury that salaried workers cannot afford. It has became a hurdle younger people struggle against but cannot overcome. Such abuses in the housing market are intolerable. And that is why President Ma promised to promote "housing justice."

Consider the recent legislative process. Everyone expected powerful interference from vested interests. But it never happened. Both ruling and opposition legislators knew that sky high housing prices were a problem. They knew that the public shared a deep distaste for housing speculators. Interestingly enough, the luxury tax was merely an anti-speculation trial balloon. Yet it significantly inhibited housing market transactions. That shows just how rampant speculation in the housing market was. To achieve housing justice, the authorities have numerous policy instruments at their disposal. Reforms must be implemented. Trading prices must be determined by the tax system and by transaction prices. Real estate prices must be rationalized.

For example, the luxury tax does not apply to pre-sold housing units. That constitutes a giant loophole. Government financial agencies can expand their inventory of transaction records. They can target the proceeds from such transactions. But if the results are ineffective, speculators will continue to exploit such loopholes to turn a profit. Legislators should amend the law to include pre-sold housing units. Also, the land price quotation system is extremely unreasonable. Prices quoted are far below the actual market price. This leads to serious inaccuracies in the calculation of land values. In particular, land speculation allows consortiums to enjoy windfall profits. They are not required to give anything back to the community. The system must be changed. We must revive the spirit of Sun Yat-sen, who insisted that "profits must acrue to the public."

So-called housing justice is easier said than done, This is not the job of the government alone. Social consensus and community participation are required as well. For example Taipei City is promoting "social housing." Plans for both luxury condos in the city center and residential units in the suburbs of Mucha have met with strong opposition from local residents. They oppose construction in their neighborhoods. This may be the result of inappropriate choices in building location. They may be the result of the city government's inability to communicate and coordinate. But it also reflects public rejection and public mistrust of social housing. People feel that social housing will reduce market values and living standards in their community.

This "not in my backyard" mentality has a long history. But solutions are possible. More importantly, the government must come up with a persuasive scheme for the construction and management of social housing. It must win community support. Members of the public must also open their hearts. They must set aside class prejudices. They must not discriminate between the rich and the poor. They must welcome neighbors living under different housing regimes. Only a non-discriminatory atmosphere can establish community spirit and achieve the ultimate goal of housing justice.

Frequent fliers who shuttle back and forth between Taiwan, the Mainland, and Hong Kong, and those with cosmopolitan backgrounds, know that class divisions are less clearcut on Taiwan, and that Taiwan society is comparatively egalitarian. This is an achievement we should be proud of. But in recent years, imbalances in industrial development, the existence of a mercantilistic tax system, and runaway housing speculation have gradually undermined this hard won equality. That is deeply worrisome. The government has now introduced a luxury tax. The luxury tax will help crack down on speculation and stabilize prices. It also amounts to a declaration that the government intends to "care for the underprivileged." This trend, from "wealthy," to "egalitarian," should continue.

The luxury tax is merely one small step in the direction of housing justice. But it is one giant leap for social justice. Its passage shows that the government has a positive role to play in policy formulation. The luxury tax is not enough. Speculators should forget about short-term speculation. They will need to find other investments. Building contractors will need to create more appropriate housing for people to live in. They must not be wildly extravagant and expensive. The public must understand what it means not to have a home of one's own, and to commute long distances each and every day. Please give social housing a chance. Do not look down your noses at your new neighbors.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.19









Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pay Raises for Military and Teachers Highlight Government Red Ink

Pay Raises for Military and Teachers Highlight Government Red Ink
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 18, 2011

The proposed pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers was stalled for eight months. The matter will probably be settled this week. But the budget process that follows will shine a light on the nation's deteriorating fiscal circumstances, This is something the current administration will soon have to face.

Last August, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin pleaded on behalf of the nation's civil servants. He raised the issue of a pay raise. Since then, various parties have debated the issue. They have tackled the issue from the perspective of electoral politics, consumer inflation, stimulation of consumption, and competition over human resources. Each approach has its own advocates. In his capacity as a policy maker, last year Premier Wu spoke of five criterion for a pay raise: exports, economic growth, taxation, prices, and corporate year-end bonuses. These were later reduced to two: taxes and economic outlook. Finally, last week, he said "we have an excellent opportunity" to increase salaries for military personnel and teachers by approximately 3%. He will report to President Ma this week. If the Legislature agrees, then 800,000 military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers can expect a pay raise by July 1. But as Premier Wu himself said, the case has been under discussion for almost a year. He was embarrassed about the fact. But whose fault is that?

Consider the policy alternatives. Should military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers receive a pay raise? One should consider recent price increases, private sector pay raises, and economic growth forecasts, before arriving at a decision. But such indicators are merely for reference. They are not rigid salary thresholds. Therefore the pay raise issue is fundamentally a political issue. Government policy makers make decisions based on their own subjective priorities. This is true for salary increases. The current salary increase will require an additional 21 billion NT per year. It accounts for only 1.2% of the central government's total budget. But it nearly equals the annual operating budget for the Judicial Yuan and the Examination Yuan. It could underwrite the Ministry of Economic Affairs' development projects for an entire year. It could underwrite the operating expenses for the International Airport Park for an entire year. It could underwrite road construction and improvement plans. As we can see, many other major projects would have to be shelved due to a lack of funds. The government has decided to use the 21 billion NT for a pay raise and not something else. Naturally it was a political decision made in response to current circumsances.

But any political decision that calls for the use of resources, must withstand the test of fiscal soundness. This may be the most painful aspect of Premier Wu's decision. The Ma administation took office in 2008. Since then, the government has run a deficit for three years in a row. The national debt reached a new high each year. This year is it close to 5 trillion NT. That is roughly 37% of the gross domestic product. This was unavoidable. The financial tsunami forced the government to maintain growth by increasing public infrastructure construction. But year upon year of fiscal deficits suggest that when the government issues a pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers, it is living beyond its means. If the government enjoys a budget surplus, like Hong Kong, then a pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers would be perfectly reasonable and justifiable. The government would not need to hem and haw about conditions and circumstances.

Premier Wu has made clear that this year's pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers will come out of a supplementary budget. The funding may dervive from the issuance of public shares. It may exceed tax revenues and income derived from the activation of idle military land. The government has declared that it will not underwrite the pay raise by increasing debt. But this argument has two problems. The first is the legality of the supplementary budget, Article 79 of the Budget Act prescribes four preconditions for a supplementary budget. Essentially it requires a new law. Its agencies require new authority, and some sort of major incident. The Executive Yuan will of course have to present a legal case. Precedents may exist, but the circumstances are now very different. Therefore controversy is inevitable.

Secondly, once military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers have been given pay raises, this recurring expense must be sustainable. It can be made part of this year's supplementary budget and underwritten by specific revenue sources. But next year it will require regular budgets at all levels of government. If governments at all levels cannot balance their budgets next year, the government will have to increase its debt. If the pay raise indirectly increases the budget deficit, it is the same as increasing the debt. The only real solution is to reduce the deficit and reduce the debt, The government cannot underwrite a pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers through a Ponzi scheme.

As we can see, a pay raise for military personnel, civil servants, and public sector school teachers is a political decision. It must be accompanied by a clear plan for deficit reduction and debt reduction. The government's fiscal affairs must be credible and sustainable. The financial crisis has passed. But the European debt crisis remains. The key is long-term deficit and unresolved debt problems. The government need not pay off all its debts before implementing a pay raise. But it must at least initiate deficit reduction and debt relief.

2011.04.18 02:59 am








Thursday, April 14, 2011

Su and Tsai's Worrisome Insular Economic Perspective

Su and Tsai's Worrisome Insular Economic Perspective
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 15, 2011

The DPP has just held its second presidential primary debate. But the party's candidates have yet to offer the far-sighted national policies the public expects. The public has however, seen Su and Tsai Ing-wen waffle and flip-flop on economic policy. Tsai Ing-wen's "local economy," and Su Tseng-chang's "fortunate nation" are shot through with introversion and reaction. Do they really not know they are leading Taiwan down the garden path?

During the previous primary debate, Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly touted her international vision, During the latest primary debate however, she suddenly reverted to "local economy" thinking. She declared that Taiwan must head down an entirely different developmental path. It must adopt a nativist orientation. This was truly surprising. Tsai Ing-wen's so-called local economy, calls for the development of industries with local characteristics. It calls for young people to turn their creative energies to rural towns and villages, and increasing job opportunities. In fact, this idea is not new. Tsai Ing-wen lacks an adequate understanding of Taiwan's local economy. Otherwise she would have known that many regions have begun doing just this, and that the results have been exemplary. Young people have been returning home in a steady stream for years.

In recent years, Taiwan's economy has reached a bottleneck, mainly due to flip-flopping over government policies and government controls. This is not a problem that can be solved by chanting political mantras such as "local economy." Besides, problems with the local economy are rightly the responsibility of county chiefs, city mayors, and village chiefs. They are more able to respond to local conditions. They are closer to local needs. A national leader needs a broader and more far-sighted perspective. Tsai Ing-wen alas, cannot see the forest for the trees. She imagines she has offered us a grand vision of how to rule a nation. In reality, she has put the cart before the horse. Tsai Ing-wen is either unfamilar with Taiwan's local economy, or she simply cannot see beyond the island of Taiwan. Either is cause for concern.

Imagine applying Tsai Ing-wen's so-called local economy model to Seattle, Seattle is an aerospace, information technology, and biotechnology center. Many world-renowned multinational companies have set up factories there. In short, Seattle is an international city. It simply does not fit into Tsai Ing-wen's "nativist" framework. It does not have an economy rooted in the sale of agricultural products or on local tourism. People from many nations work there. Together they have achieved prosperity and excellence. Seattle may be Tsai Ing-wen's image of paradise. But if her head is filled exclusively with thoughts of "localization" and "nativism," how can she possibly set foot within such a realm?

Su Tseng-chang's economic perspective is not quite as narrow and constipated. He supports deregulation. He supports incentives for investment. But alas, he also demands all sorts of measures to "redistribute the wealth." He commits a string of logical contradictions impossible to justify. He resembles Tsai Ing-wen in certain respects. During the two primary debates he mentioned industrial policy. Both times the examples he cited concerned local agriculture and local fisheries. The first concerned angelfish. The other concerned mushrooms. Angelfish and mushrooms are indeed examples of "native" Taiwan industries. But Su has to incorporate a much broader range of technologies and industries into his economic framework. Does he really believe that reverting to "nativism," to farming and fishing, can bolster Taiwan's economy and ensure its future development?

Six decades ago, our forebears created Taiwan's economic miracle. Taiwan lacked resources. Only by aggressively developing trade and import substitution industrialization, were they able to ensure Taiwan's economic survival. Six decades later, Taiwan has become an economic giant. DPP leaders not only do not understand how to help this giant grow, they actually want to shrink its domain, and reduce the amount of room it has for growth. Is forcing Taiwan to revert to farming and fishing the only way to ensure a better tomorrow?

Hsu Hsin-liang has reiterated the need to "go west." He may have oversimplifed the problem. But Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen are ahead in the polls. All they can think about is "nativism." All they can think about is farming and fishing. They dare not take a long hard look at their surroundings, at the world outside. Their attitude is a far more serious problem. When Chen Shui-bian was in office, he knew enough to champion such projects as "Two Trillion, Twin Stars," and "Big Investment, Great Warmth." Many of these projects were empty boasts. But at least he knew the government had to take the lead. Su and Tsai have eight years of experience in office. Yet overnight, they would overturn and discard their own important economic achievements. They would force Taiwan to revert to what it was six decades ago. That would be a giant step backwards. Su Tseng-chang has promised rosy elderly long term care and child care policies. But given his feeble economic program, who is going to pay for all his welfare programs?

Youth unemployment and industrial restructuring are problems the ruling and opposition parties must solve together. But problems cannot be solved by burying one's head in the sand. Nor should policy makers prescribe voodoo economic cures. Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen may defy the wisdom of the people. But they must not be allowed to trample over six decades of hard-won economic prosperity. Tsai Ing-wen. Su Tseng-chang. Do your homework. Then come back.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.15