Monday, May 20, 2013

Ma Ying-jeou's Last Three Years, Taiwan's Next Three Years

Ma Ying-jeou's Last Three Years, Taiwan's Next Three Years
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 21, 2013

Summary: By the first anniversary of President Ma's second term, President Ma's public approval rating fell to 20%. His administration has stumbled all the way. Danger continues to loom for the remaining three years of his second and final term. For both President Ma and the Taiwan Region, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Full Text below:

By the first anniversary of President Ma's second term, President Ma's public approval rating fell to 20%. His administration has stumbled all the way. Danger continues to loom for the remaining three years of his second and final term. For both President Ma and the Taiwan Region, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

During the five years since 2008, Ma Ying-jeou has gone from charismatic national leader to lame duck president. Ma Ying-jeou faces more than just a decline in national morale. He also faces difficult to overcome obstacles to his leadership. Among these are a deepening "national malaise," intense obstruction from the political opposition, but most of all, his administration has lost its bearings and its ability to move the nation forward. He has run up against a brick wall. These three factors are related and connected. In any event, the remedy for the "lame duck syndrome" lies in President Ma's hands. He must find a way to break through the brick wall.

Given his plight, President Ma is sure to be confused and anxious. But one must never forget that the confusion and anxiety experienced by the public on Taiwan far exceeds his. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian governed for 20 years. They left the nation a mess. The public desperately hoped the chaos of Taiwan's democracy would end under the Ma administration, given strong public support. They hoped the economy would regain its vitality. They hoped social divisions would be healed. But five years later, it is clear their hopes were in vain. During the 2008 general election, some "elders" predicted that if elected, Ma Ying-jeou would bring about a wave of "peace and prosperity." The result however, has been an uncertain peace and an ever elusive prosperity.

For precisely this reason, Ma Ying-jeou is thinking hard about what he will do during the next three years. He must not remain preoccupied with honoring unfulfilled campaign promises, and with filling in the gaps in his blueprint for governance. Otherwise, he will find himself trapped, chasing after outdated commitments. What Ma Ying-jeou must do, is understand and respond to the yearnings of the public. He must come up with a concrete antidote to its problems. He cannot pull a rabbit out of a hat. He cannot suddenly announce some secret formula to stimulate the economy. Instead he must summon up the passion and sense of mission befitting a national leader. He must win back those members of the public who lost confidence in him. He must aggressively seek to restore Taiwan society's lost cohesion.

President Ma's halo has lost its luster. This is due to three factors. The first factor is personal. Ma has a bland personality. He led a charmed life. He never experienced setbacks during his development. He never acquired a feel for what it was like to be ordinary folk. He lacks heartfelt social concern. He often allows himself to become caught up in trivial or superficial matters. He has never evinced the boldness expected of a leader. He has never been able to inspire people with his own passion. The result has been a society mired in apathy and helplessness.

The second factor is governmental. President Ma has a tendency toward homogenization. This is not conducive to the diversity of though or dynamic decision-making. Add to this Blue vs. Green ideological confrontation, and it became increasingly difficult for him to recruit talent. Political appointees settled into career official positions. It was impossible for him to establish an effective brain trust. His policy making ability failed to meet public expectations.

The third factor was social. During President Ma's first four years, the bar was set extremely low. Chen Shui-bian was corrupt. The DPP was incompetent. Ma championed clean government and cross-Strait rapproachment. These were easy to reach political objectives. But peoples' expectations for national progress continued to rise. The fruits of cross-strait reconciliation have already been harvested. Meanwhile, the clean government he championed was soon tainted by Lin Yi-shi on his left, and Lai Shu-ju on his right. Currently the public looks forward most eagerly to vital issues such as economic development, social equity, and justice. They see no progress. Instead the ruling administration remains engrossed in organizational transformation, national education reform, and other non-urgent matters. Little wonder the public is anxious and dissatisfied. The administration's agenda utterly ignores the peoples' feelings.

President Ma's achievements in cross-strait reconciliation are clear for all to see. But this is his second term. Virtually all of the benefits have been reaped. There is not much more to be had. Over the past year, the Ma administration's energy has been devoted almost entirely to U.S. beef imports, capital gains taxes, pension reform, and a referendum on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. Not one of the four problems has been solved. How can such governance win the support of the people?

Over the next three years, President Ma must not think about how many items on his "to do" list have been checked off. He must lift his eyes and see what the public on Taiwan wants. Some of what it wants are missed opportunites. Some of what it wants he can still accomplish. He must think about how to do them. Only then can he avoid betraying the expectations of 23 million people. For an individual, three years is a short period. But for the nation as a whole, three years of ups and downs, of missed opportunities, means that millions of people cannot be rescued from their plight. If President Ma squanders these three years, he will waste three years out of the lives of 23 million people. This is not something he can afford to be cavalier about!

2013.05.21 01:23 am










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