The Party Chairman Must Naturally Assume Responsibility
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 18, 2013
Summary: Today, populism and instant gratification reign supreme. Those in power are ever more fearful of ridicule and ever more inclined to bend with the political winds. Politicians have developed the habit of kowtowing to populist sentiment. Populist rhetoric increasingly determines public policy. We would like to remind President Ma that "A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation." "Doing the right thing" is duty. It is the only way to ensure that the nation moves in the right direction. Now that President Ma no longer needs to think of the next election, he should think of the next generation.
Full text below:
During the 19th KMT Party Congress, President Ma spearheaded an amendment to the party constitution. It stated that once a Kuomintang party member becomes President of the ROC, he "naturally becomes the party chairman." This move was interpreted a number of different ways. But realistically it means that when a new president takes office in 2016, assuming the KMT remains in power, President Ma must abide by the party constitution and surrender the party chairmanship. If the KMT loses power, there will surely be an uproar within the party. President Ma will surely find it difficult to retain his post as party chairman. In 2016, President Ma must step down empty-handed. That is a foregone conclusion.
When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stepped down, he famously quipped, "When I leave, the pub closes." But here on Taiwan, few power holders are like that. Few are that care free. Few can simply turn and walk away. Some cling to party power. Others create new power bases to preserve their political influence. Some are even less able to let go. They surround themselves with true believers and become spoilers. If upon leaving office President Ma can be a good "ex president," he will make a positive contribution to constitutional rule in the Republic of China.
Two and half years remain until his retirement. But one must deduct the half year "caretaker period" between the election of the new president and his or her inauguration. This leaves President Ma only two years to get things done. Ma knows he will retire empty-handed. Therefore if President Ma wants to reverse the plunge in his public approval and leave a worthwhile legacy, he has no time to waste. He must seize the moment. He must assume responsibility. He must do everything he wanted to do but dared not do. He must promote everything he wanted to promote, but failed to promote. He must fulfill every promise he wanted to fulfill, but failed to fulfill. He must make every effort to do these within the next two years.
The first is tax reform. Over the past two decades, politicians and political parties, in order to win votes, have doubled down on social welfare. They have increased coverage for the underprivileged. But systemic bloat and loopholes have led to waste, fraud, and abuse. Meanwhile, tax relief measures have proliferated. The ROC now has the lowest income tax rate of any country in the world. This is true at all levels of government. It has resulted in debt at all levels of government debt totaling 22 trillion NTD. The amounts to one million NTD for every citizen.
Within democracies, tax hikes will always be politically taboo. But fiscal discipline and justice urgently demand them. In recent years, tax hikes have occasionally been proposedup. But the measures have been piecemeal and stopgap. No one dares touch the core issue. President Ma no longer has any election concerns. He has an obligation to make drastic fiscal reforms.
The second is how to revive the economy. In recent years, the domestic economy has stagnated. This is due partly to the international situation. But domestic industrial restructuring is also a factor. When the economy took off, the information industry played a leading role in Taiwan's economy. Recently however, it has reached a bottleneck. It has been unable to jettison its role as an OEM provider. It has been unable to develop its mobile industry. It has been indecisive. The government speaks of "emerging flagship industries." But it attempts to please everyone by including everything. As a result its strategy lacks focus. It wants to include everything. It is afraid of leaving out anything. In fact of course, focusing on everything is the same as focusing on nothing. If Taiwan cannot exploit its unique advantages, the harsh environment of international competition will render any such efforts futile. President Ma must choose the target and move in that direction. Otherwise, any government rhetoric about flagship industries will remain empty talk.
Fiscal discipline and industrial transformation are relatively simple reforms. Take cross-Strait relations. President Ma has made significant breakthroughs. But he has also encountered many bottlenecks. For example, TISA and the establishment of cross-strait representative offices. These have encountered long delays due to internal and external factors. Either that, or the Ma administration gave up the moment it encountered resistance. The measures were postponed indefinitely. Therefore how optimistic can one be about the upcoming TIGA? Will these things that need doing be done? It all depends on President Ma Ying-jeou and whether he has the will.
Other things, such as whether to continue construction on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant, whether to put it into operation, or whether to concentrate on more sustainable national planning projects, have suffered due to vested interests or ideological disputes. These projects may elict more boos than applause. But if these are not done during these two golden years, they will never be done.
Today, populism and instant gratification reign supreme. Those in power are ever more fearful of ridicule and ever more inclined to bend with the political winds. Politicians have developed the habit of kowtowing to populist sentiment. Populist rhetoric increasingly determines public policy. We would like to remind President Ma that "A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation." "Doing the right thing" is duty. It is the only way to ensure that the nation moves in the right direction. Now that President Ma no longer needs to think of the next election, he should think of the next generation.
2013.11.18 02:06 am