Regroup or Lose Half Your Fighting Effectiveness
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 11, 2012
Summary: The Ma administration's governing team has been dogged by problems every step of the way. The DPP has threatened a vote of no confidence. The vote of no confidence will fail, But the ruling administration must regroup, The cabinet need not be dissolved. But half of its members must step down. Even if the president were to don two helmets, he could not pass his reforms, Is the KMT prepared to repeat the mistakes of 2000? Is it prepared once again to relinquish power to others?
Full Text below:
The term "rebellion" may be too strong. The term "riot" may be an exaggeration. But over the past 12 days, KMT legislators have repeatedly defected and refused to toe the party line. They defected on U.S. beef imports, twice. They held up the capital gains tax bill in the Rules Committee. They forced President Ma, in his capacity as party chairman, to make urgent telephone calls to the KMT legislative caucus. Ma said "The content may be negotiated. But the process must not stop." This tells us one thing. External chaos is not to be feared. Only internal chaos is. The KMT legislative caucus, the party, and the administration, must all be politically restructured.
Blue Camp legislators have held up the Executive Yuan's version of the capital gains tax bill. The Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan were completely left out of the loop. When Ma Ying-jeou learned about the situation, he made an urgent phone call to Premier Sean Chen, to Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, to KMT Secretary-General Lin Chung-sen, and to Policy Committee Convener Lam Chi. His instructions were to continue promoting the capital gains tax bill. He said it must be submitted to the Legislative Yuan Rules Committee. He said the public must not conclude that the administration isn't playing for keeps. In the Chungshan Committee Report he stressed that "The KMT's position has never changed, and its determination has never wavered." The next day, in the Central Standing Committee meeting, he invited Finance Minister Christina Liu to deliver a special report entitled, "the Significance and Benefits of the Capital Gains Tax." He even said "Ma Ying-jeou has always played for keeps!"
Ma Ying-jeou may be playing for keeps. But do KMT legislators support him as he plays for keeps? That has been repeatedly called into question. Several Blue Camp legislators blocked the bill, saying, "The KMT legislative caucus blocked the Executive Yuan proposal. This established a Guinness record This was clearly a vote of no confidence in Finance Minister Christina Liu. For Christina Liu this was a slap in the face. Other than step down, there is nothing else to do." The Blue Camp legislators surely realize that the introduction of the capital gains tax was not really a Ministry of Finance or Christina Liu initiative. The policy was part of President Ma Ying-jeou's post-reelection promise to "don a steel helmet and fight for reform." Tax justice is one of President Ma's major second term reforms. In other words, the face the Blue Camp legislator slapped was none other than President Ma's.
U.S. beef imports, gasoline and electricity rate hikes, and the capital gains tax have all undercut President Ma Ying-jeou's reputation. Blue Camp legislators are increasingly out of control. Gasoline and electricity rate hikes forced Ma Ying-jeou to call a late night press conference and announce that his single stage rate hike would be changed to a multi-stage rate hike. The capital gains tax also provoked a backlash within his won party. The "five man committee" was forced to meet at the Presidential Palace. The Ministry of Finance version had to be fine tuned before it could be sent to the Executive Yuan. Normally, they would have first consulted more parties. More importantly, when the Ministry of Finance sent its version of the bill to the Executive Yuan, a Legislative Yuan version had already been vetted by both Blue and Green Camp legislators. In other words, the Executive Yuan version might have been perfect. But once it is sent to the Legislative Yuan, it is normally reviewed alongside the Legislative Yuan's version.
Consider the Legislative Yuan proceedings. The capital gains tax is a major bill. Many people hold different views, A time-consuming debate is inevitable. Between submission to the Rules Committee and the Third Reading, there are bound to be twists and turns, The Ma administration could have used the review process to buy time. It could have improved communication and gained support. It submitted the case to the Rules Committee for review. But that does not mean the Third Reading can be successfully completed during this session. Suppose the Rules Committee shelves the bill as Ma said. This will make the public question the Ma administration's and President Ma's commitment to tax reform. The KMT legislative caucus held up the bill. Perhaps it did so as an expression of dissatisfaction with the lack of communication of the administration and the legislature. But this slap in Ma's face was also a slap in the KMT's face, The business sector opposes the capital gains tax. But many experts and NGOs have promoted this bill for years. The KMT legislative caucus won the hearts of the business sector. But it paid a price. It undercut its credibility regarding reform. Carelessness has hurt the presidential office, the Executive Yuan, and the party.
The KMT legislative caucus responded to the private sector. it even responded to political changes in the European Union, The resurgence of the left could lead to another economic crisis in the Eurozone. The KMT legislative caucus meant only to delay the bill. But it should have communicated better with the presidential office and the Executive Yuan. It should have eased outside concerns about a Blue Camp legislative rebellion. Strangely enough, the KMT legislative caucus did not give advance notice. When the Executive Yuan first heard about this development, it pretended nothing was wrong. It failed to offer a strong defense for its policy, It failed to toss the hot potato back at the Treasury, That evening its press release said, "The Ministry of Finance has been asked to communicate in a more proactive manner." As if the bill had been submitted to the Legislative Yuan by the Ministry of Finance. It ignored the fact that any bill, any budget must come from the Executive Yuan. Compare this to the proactive stance of the Executive Yuan during the U.S. beef imports controversy. Clearly the Executive Yuan has reservations about this bill. IN which case the first communication hurdle was not with the Legislative Yuan, but the Executive Yuan.
It began with gasoline and electricity rates hikes, and ended with capital gains taxes. President Ma wore a helmet, even as he flip-flopped all the way, Eventually Blue Camp legislators could rightly claim that the president conceded that the bill need not pass this session, and put it on hold. In essence, Ma Ying-jeou's own attitude forced legislators to work the problem out on their own. This in turn led to chaos in the legislature. In which case Ma Ying-jeou's leadership style and decision-making mode is what needs to be examined.
The Ma administration's governing team has been dogged by problems every step of the way. The DPP has threatened a vote of no confidence. The vote of no confidence will fail, But the ruling administration must regroup, The cabinet need not be dissolved. But half of its members must step down. Even if the president were to don two helmets, he cou8ld not pass his reforms, Is the KMT prepared to repeat the mistakes of 2000? Is it prepared once again to relinquish power to others?