Unrealistic Expectations: Ma Stumbles
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 1, 2012
Summary: Christina Liu's resignation has been approved. This has ended her brief two month campaign on behalf of the administration's capital gains tax bill. Her unceremonious departure was an admission that her tax reform campaign had failed. It was an accusation that her ruling party colleagues had betrayed their principles. For Christina Liu, this was a painful and tragic struggle. The Ma administration was attacked from both front and rear, The public was also betrayed.
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Christina Liu's resignation has been approved. This has ended her brief two month campaign on behalf of the administration's capital gains tax bill. Her unceremonious departure was an admission that her tax reform campaign had failed. It was an accusation that her ruling party colleagues had betrayed their principles. For Christina Liu, this was a painful and tragic struggle. The Ma administration was attacked from both front and rear, The public was also betrayed.
Reform is cause for celebration. Yet this is what it has come to. It is hard to contemplate, but equally hard to turn away. Why did it happen? The biggest problem was the Ma administration's unrealistic expectations. Ma wanted reform, but lacked the required finesse. . He built castles in the air. But he had no concept of what he had to do to turn them into reality. .
On May 20, President Ma assumed office amidst public protests. A mere 10 days later, he lost an important tax reform official. This is a painful lesson for President Ma, the Chen Cabinet, and the entire governing team.
The capital gains tax initiative has come to nothing. Evaluations of Christina Liu are polarized. Some praise her for standing by her ideals. Some condemn her for being too extreme. To be fair, Christina Liu devoted herself to reform. She cared nothing for power or prestige, She was tough in her manner. But she lacked the EQ necessary to communicate with the rest of the administration. She never saw the the larger political picture. She lacked the ability to coordinate with colleagues. She threw in the towel and did not fight to the very end. She even failed to inform the premier before announcing her resignation, This caught the presidential office and the executive branch off guard. This is not how a competent and knowledgeable political appointee conducts herself. .
Christina Liu is confident and resolute. She has been described as a "born princess." Was this because President Ma placed such a heavy responsibility on her shoulders? Or was it because she expected so much from herself? We will never know. One thing is undeniable. These two factors contributed to her "go your own way" personal style. She was absent when they shot the cabinet's group portrait, for no good reason. She resigned, then refused to attend the final coordination meeting. This "desertion under fire" conduct is difficult to justify, no matter how noble the motives. This is probably the main reason Sean Chen found it difficult to keep her on. Christina Liu sealed off her own options.
Twenty-four years ago, Kuo Wan-jung championed capital gains tax reform. In the end she failed. Twenty-four years later her daughter Christina Liu could not escape the same fate. She failed as well. Is Taiwan's stock market too reactionary to tolerate reform? Or is the government's determination too weak? Is it too incapable of taking a punch? Has Taiwan's democracy made too little progress? Has it already lost the ability to innovate? Each of these alternatives is depressing to contemplate.
According to an Executive Yuan poll, 60% of all investors support a capital gains tax. Nearly 70% of all non-investors support a capital gains tax. The conditions are so favorable. Promoting a capital gains tax should be a cinch. Yet the result has been widespread public discontent. A minister has resigned. The various and sundry political parties and government agencies have each retreated into their own shells. In the final analysis, one can only conclude that the Ma adminstration was incompetent.
Good governance requires coordination between the administration and political parties. It requires communications between government agencies, It requires input from experts and the general public. It requires appropriate means and accurate timing. Recall the past two months. What has the public seen, besides the Ma administration in a state of complete disunity? The KMT and the Ma administration each went their own way. Each sang their own tune. The cabinet sat back and watched the stock market plummet, helpless to do anything about it. Even worse, just when it was most critical, just when the adminstration was seeking political unity, President Ma vanished. He was nowhere to be found. The administration turned into a free for all. A wonderful reform proposal went from asset to liability. But how could it have been otherwise?
One thing must be mentioned. The capital gains tax incident has left the KMT in disarray. It is now the Ma administration's "tempest in a teapot." It has little to do with opposition obstructionism. Therefore President Ma must exercise greater vigilance. He is both president and party chairman. Yet he failed to promote party/administration cooperation. He personally handed Christina Liu the banner of reform, then stifled communication and coordination within the cabinet. He tried to show his commitment to reform. Instead he allowed himself to be stymied by street violence and a governing team alienated from its professed ideals. Does this look like an adminstration with four years of governing experience?
Christina Liu demonstrated her personal style. Earlier in the year, she replaced the bureacratic Lee Shuh-der as finance minister. People had great expectations. They thought she would do some good. Ironically, Christina Liu's departure undermined the administration's image even before she achieved a single goal. Some political appointees march only to their own drummer. Others constantly monitor the wind to see which way it is blowing. Neither makes the ideal political appointee. What a cabinet needs is professionals with vision. They must see the Big Picture, They must have character and integrity. They must "know when to hold, and know when to fold." Only then can they make a contribution to the public welfare.
The capital gains tax debacle cannot be blamed on Christina Liu alone. Everyone in the Ma administration, from top to bottom, must learn how to put two words together: "team," and "work." They must learn how to reconcile "goals" and "means." Otherwise, they will be gazing at the stars while lying in the gutter. Now how glamorous is that?
2012.06.01 02:44 am