Oversights in Premier Chiang's Twenty-Five Points
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 14, 2014
Summary: Premier Chiang Yi-hua recently spoke to cabinet ministers. He made 25
major and minor demands. The demands were unimagineably trivial. The
premier ordered cabinet ministers to carry out a large number of
complicated tasks. Critics considered this inappropriate. They mocked
him, saying "The premier is acting like a drill instructor, and putting
cabinet ministers through boot camp." More importantly, consider the
dignity of those in authority. The premier's action demeans the cabinet
ministers. It also blurs the long range vision required for the nation's
Full text below:
Premier Chiang Yi-hua recently spoke to cabinet ministers. He made 25 major and minor demands. The demands were unimagineably trivial. The premier ordered cabinet ministers to carry out a large number of complicated tasks. Critics considered this inappropriate. They mocked him, saying "The premier is acting like a drill instructor, and putting cabinet ministers through boot camp." More importantly, consider the dignity of those in authority. The premier's action demeans the cabinet ministers. It also blurs the long range vision required for the nation's governance.
Taiwan faces intractable problems. What sort of responses are required? Salaries on Taiwan have remain frozen. Ten years ago, the high-tech and OEM industries relocated or were eclipsed by the Koreans. Industrial upgrading has remained an empty promise. Society is anxious. Take the individual. The gap between rich and poor has widened. Young people have no hope. They have no future. Postgraduate study cannot guarantee employment. Take Taiwan as a whole. The government lacks sufficient tax revenue. Public works are at a standstill. EIAs are drawn out and inefficient. Blue vs. Green ideological opposition remains a Gordian knot. Taiwan still enjoys a few advantages, but they are rapidly being frittered away. This is the situation on Taiwan. To change it we need leaders with the courage to throw open the doors.
The environment Taiwan confronts is far from ideal. But take recent history. Both many outstanding political leaders abroad have led their people out of predicaments far worse than ours. They have blazed new trails. Brazil's 36th president is Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Thirty years ago, Taiwan's Sun Yun-suan was also an excellent example. So is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Leave aside his controversial nationalist policies. He successfully turned Japanese morale around. He had the will to fight.
Look at these leaders. The common denominator is high energy. They know how to clarify the situation, identify the problem, uncover strategies, win public support, and turn things around. Political conditions in Brazil and Japan are worse than they are on Taiwan. Cardoso and Abe would never obsess over how to communicate with members of parliament, over how long it took to return a phone call, over when to consult a PR firm, or over whether to first report to the executive. Put more harshly, if politicians obsess over such trivialities, it is sure to thrwart the realization of their vision.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the premier and cabinet ministers are relative. Does the premier intend to demand strict accountability from cabinet members on all manner of trivia? Does he intend to treat them the way a primary school teacher treats his students? If he does, the result will not difficult to imagine. What caliber of people is willing to tolerate this kind of leadership? The result would be an exodus of the most talented individuals. Premier Chiang does not want cabinet members to make policy behind closed doors. He is right about this. But let us back up. Who recruited the cabinet members who formulate policy behind closed doors to begin with? No large company on Taiwan is going to tolerate anyone above a vice president who formulates policy behind closed doors. Must 30 or more cabinet members follow the premier around and whisper in his ear?
Before Premier Chiang promotes a major policy, he is going to need the support of the president and the various cabinet ministers. This is true enough. But the public on Taiwan has to wonder. The President and the Premier promoted such absurd policies as 12 year compulsory education. They promoted an isolated case which led to the repeal of courts martials. They issued foolhardy hikes in gasoline prices and electricity rates. They promoted a stillborn capital gains tax unique in all the world. Were any of these moves supported by the public on Taiwan? Have the policy leaders who operated behind closed doors learned their lesson? Suppose these cases, which cabinet members were warned about, turn out to be the fault of the president and the premier? Just how effective was this cabinet member boot camp?
Ma administration governance remains troubled even after five years and ten months in office. It is understandably anxious. Everyone knows this. But no matter how anxious it might be, it must not panic and lose its composure. The Chiang 25 Points may represent the conclusions of the abortive Ma Chiang review. But can they really attribute the errors to cabinet officials speaking out of turn, or poor communications, or poor policies? Can they then demand strict discipline? First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. This sort of finger pointing will hardly remedy the problem.
Can Ma and Chiang enage in self-introspection? Can they take a long, hard look at their own managerial approach, their own vision, their own decision-making style, and their own policy direction? If so, the conclusions they reach will be dramatically different. We would like to remind President Ma and Premier Chiang. Blaming others upon encountering setbacks is easy. Contemplating one's own responsibility on the other hand, is hard. As a Western saying puts it, "Most men think they are a good drivers. But few men know where they are going." Nitpicking over cabinet discipline may help the cabinet march in lockstep. But it will not help it find a way out of its current predicament. It may even limit the creativity of its political appointees.
2014.03.14 03:57 am