Can an Unconventional Cabinet Rejuvenate Taiwan?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 5, 2013
Summary: The Chiang-Mao Cabinet has more or less been sorted out. Attention has
been focused mainly on the reorganization of ministries charged with
fiscal policy. Shih Yen-hsiang and Yin Chi-ming have been made national
policy advisors. Their places are being filled by Chang Chia-chu and
Kuan Chung-ming. Can such a cabinet restore ROC economic prosperity?
That depends on whether the cabinet leaders and managers can work
efficiently hand in hand.
Full text below:
The Chiang-Mao Cabinet has more or less been sorted out. Attention has been focused mainly on the reorganization of ministries charged with fiscal policy. Shih Yen-hsiang and Yin Chi-ming have been made national policy advisors. Their places are being filled by Chang Chia-chu and Kuan Chung-ming. Can such a cabinet restore ROC economic prosperity? That depends on whether the cabinet leaders and managers can work efficiently hand in hand.
The current cabinet reshuffle was unconventional. Incoming Premier Chiang Yi-hua made the transition from ordinary academic to minister in four short years, then jumped to cabinet chief. Many people are unfamiliar with him. Even Blue camp comrades are still sizing him up. Meanwhile, Green camp opponents are wary. They are not treating the matter lightly. This point is worth pondering. Many officials responsible for the transportation system have assumed positions of authority during the recent reshuffle. Mao Chi-kuo, Chang Chia-chu, Ye Kuang-shi and others have hopped onto the cabinet locomotive. At the same time, fiscal policy oriented personnel have retreated. This too, was unconventional.
The ROC economy faces a difficult transition. Yet the cabinet reshuffle has put personnel without fiscal policy experience in positions of authority. Was this because talent was hard to find? Or was it because those in power consider non-economic factors the problem, and are attempting to solve the problem in a different way? This is puzzling. In any event, this unconventional cabinet has broken the old pattern. Can the government break with the past and form a new cabinet the public can looks forward to? That depends on how serious Chiang Yi-hua and his team are about this experiment in reshuffling. That depends on whether they do everything in their power to achieve their goals.
Last year at about this time, Sean Chen was ordered to form a cabinet. The public had high hopes for his fiscal policy oriented cabinet. But the ROC economy has remained at its nadir all year. The economic growth rate has been revised downwards nine times. The Free Trade Zone Pilot Program has remained stalled. Obstacles continue to block industrial transformation. Sean Chen himself made little progress on reform for U.S. beef imports, capital gains taxes, pensions, and state-owned enterprises. Admittedly complex political factors are involved, for which he should nto be blamed. But the ineptitude of the CEPD has also disillusioned people about the fiscal policy oriented cabinet. This is one of the most important factors leading to the current cabinet reshuffle.
From this perspective, it matters little who is or is not in the cabinet. It matters little who offered advice behind the scenes. The Chiang-Mao cabinet's most important task is to boost public confidence and change the public mood. It matters little whether this cabinet is considered a fiscal policy oriented cabinet. That is unimportant. What is important is whether it can overcome the current atmosphere of fiscal impotence. The cabinet lacks shining fiscal policy stars. The cabinet must rely on Chiang Yi-hua's leadership, on Mao Chi-kuo's management skills, on Chang Chia-chu's comprehensive governance, and on Kuan Chung-min's reason and enthusiasm. They can inspire each other. They can consult individuals and businesses, in search of answers. Only then can they achieve their goals.
In recent years, when people talk about fiscal policy oriented officials, they invariably voice nostalgia for Sun Yun-suan, Li Kuo-ting, Chao Yao-tung and other pioneering geniuses. But officials of such vision are not easy to find today, Today's political and economic environment is riddled with social divisions. Even if pioneers with their vision were to appear, it might be impossible to persuade people to trust them. Furthermore, Li Kuo-ting and others were able to lay such a solid foundation for Taiwan, not because they possessed any particular expertise in fiscal policy, but because they had an extraordinary sense of mission. They had the ability of engineers to analyze and solve problems. As a result they constantly pursued excellence. They constantly worked to realize their vision, and they constantly endeavored to surpass themselves.
When Sun Yun-suan was ordered to form a cabinet, or Li Kuo-ting was invited to join a cabinet. their first thought was not "I've been promoted!" It was "How can I possibly fulfill this impossible mission I have been entrusted with?" Only this provided them with the impetus necessary to bring these grand plans for the nation to fruition, despite their limited authority. Chen Shui-bian was in office eight years. Ma Ying-jeou has been in office five-years. During this 13 year period, the ROC had 11 different premiers and hundreds of different cabinet members. They include ministers who served only 48 days before leaving office in a panic. They include ministers who cared more about their own image than contributing to the cabinet, and therefore hastily resigned. Today the cabinet is being reshuffled. We need not anticipate the arrival of any Superman. But we hope all cabinet members will be serious about their mission. Is that too much to expect?
The Taiwan stock market gave the Sean Chen cabinet an enthusiastic welcome. But the cabinet was a flash in the pan, and the market steadily declined. This time, Chiang Yi-hua has been ordered to form a cabinet. The market rose a mere five points. Public support was also cooler. This shows that observers are capable of evaluating the new cabinet without jumping to conclusions, based merely on outside appearance. Chiang Yi-hua has never undergone any major battles. He must show that he is capable of assuming the heavy burden of premier. He must keep his eyes and ears open, and think clearly. That is more important than constantly trying to read the president's mind.
The new cabinet is hardly scintillating. Can it exceed public expectations? That will depend on team spirit, cooperation, effort, as well as cabinet members's attitude towards their own work.
2013.02.05 04:13 am