Extricate the Nation from its Political Quagmire:
Introduce an Economic Stimulus Plan
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 27, 2012
Summary: Taiwan cannot afford to wait. The government must clarify its priorities. It must understand the people's expectations. It must seize the opportunity to grow the economy. Only this will enable Taiwan to begin anew. Taiwan truly cannot afford to stand still.
Full Text below:
Former Vice President Vincent Siew has been in government for decades. He is an economic and trade policy veteran, and also skilled at national policy. He is a statesman who understands international relations. He is deeply concerned that internal friction has left Taiwan in a state of crisis. Everything he said during the recent summit inspired reflection. Siew's remarks were dead on. Opportunities for national growth are fleeting. The Ma administration must extricate itself from its political quagmire. It must seize the initiative, and set the agenda. It must demonstrate vision, foresight, and determination. It must offer an inspiring economic stimulus plan.
Former Vice President Siew said that Taiwan faces three major hurdles. The first hurdle is the sustained and powerful economic waves currently buffeting Taiwan. Changes in the Mainland's economy have impacted Taiwan's future. South Korean competition leaves Taiwan with little breathing room. The second hurdle is unnecessary internal friction. Internal friction has made government agencies oblivious to the looming crisis. It has made them delay decision-making. Unfairness and injustice have undermined government business trust. The ruling and opposition parties continue to spin their wheel, trapped in a vicious circle. The third hurdle is an upcoming test of Taiwan's economic resilience. This test will determine whether Taiwan rises or falls. If Taiwan fails this test, its future will be dim. Taiwan's only choice is to transform a crisis into an opportunity. We must realize the folly of internal bickering and desist. We must find a new strategy to ensure Taiwan's continued survival.
Many people feel this way. Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng echoed these sentiments. He said the ruling and opposition parties must realize the impact internal bickering has on the nation's prosperity. He said Taiwan must attempt to catch up with the Mainland and with South Korea. To do this it must eliminate unnecessary internal friction.
Taiwan has been spinning its wheels. The ruling and opposition parties persist in vicious partisan infighting. Policy cannot move forward. Condemnation has been universal. We all know international competition is fierce. If one is not moving forward, then one is falling behind. The Mainland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other economies are racing full speed ahead. Mainland China is a major player. Even the United States seeks its cooperation. Even the EU seeks its financial aid. South Korea's rise has lent it charisma and given it influence. Korean culture, including "K-Pop," have won fans the world over. Samsung has thrashed Apple. The global ranking of Hong Kong universities has risen steadily. They have snatched many outstanding students away from Taiwan.
Taiwan meanwhile, has tripped over two large stumbling blocks. The country is stuck. Policy makers have their priorities wrong. The European debt crisis has struck. Weakness in the U.S. and European markets has hurt Taiwan's exports. Policy makers failed to focus on revitalizing the economy. They failed to create wealth for the people. They failed to help them cope with the recession. Instead, they focused on the capital gains tax, on gasoline and electricity rates, and on the perpetually muddled issue of U.S. beef imports. It did all this in the name of fairness and justice. Salary increases have not kept up with consumer prices. Therefore the public is hopping mad. Policies ostensibly motivated by fairness and justice have not fattened anyone's wallet. They have merely bled people dry and incited public discontent.
Policy makers tripped over a second stumbling block. The opposition DPP and TSU engaged in wholesale obstructionism. They forcibly occupied the Legislative Yuan, bringing it to a standstill. They prevented any bills whatsoever from being passed. The government was virtually shut down. The ruling and opposition parties found themselves trapped in a life or death struggle. The country felt itself drowning. President Ma's approval ratings plummeted. His reputation was tarnished. His every word and every deed provoked public criticism. Even KMT legislators refused to rally when he called.
The economy is in a downturn. Exports are shrinking. We face a "perfect storm." We must strengthen the economy. We must ensure public prosperity. We can talk about fairness and justice later. By then tax revenues will have increased. Everyone's wallet will be fatter. If we call for tax increases now, when people are in dire economic straits, it will surely provoke a public backlash.
The Ma administration has its ideals. But it must prioritize. It must not squander its resources on issues not of the highest priority. That would be unprofitable. The government's policy proposals are stuck. They are going nowhere. If the government performs a cost benefit analysis, it will discover that the benefits are not worth the cost. To allow the standoff to drag on is extremely unwise.
The clock is ticking. Time waits for no man. It will not wait for Taiwan. If we waste time today, we will regret it tomorrow. The public worries the most about Taiwan losing its industrial advantage and its economic vitality. Taiwan lags behind its competitors. Taiwan has been increasingly marginalized by them. What the public looks for the most is the Ma administration's vision for the future. It wants a comprehensive economic stimulus plan. It wants a solid foundation for Taiwan's long-term economic development. It does not want piecemeal policies that try to please everyone but end up pleasing no one.
Taiwan cannot afford to wait. The government must clarify its priorities. It must understand the people's expectations. It must seize the opportunity to grow the economy. Only this will enable Taiwan to begin anew. Taiwan truly cannot afford to stand still.