Must Government Disaster Relief Lag Behind Private Efforts?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 12, 2014
Summary: Nearly two weeks have passed since the Kaohsiung gas explosion. Yet
incredibly, prominent politicians are still trading spittle, especially
the Kaohsiung City Government. It has conducted an all out effort to
point the finger at others. By contrast, private sector disaster relief
materiel continues to flow into the disaster area. Businesses and civic
organizations have mobilized. They have rolled up their sleeves and
joined the reconstruction effort. They are coming to understand the real
needs of disaster victims and offering them the necessary relief. That is
why residents' complaints that "The government is always a day late and a
dollar short" are not without foundation.
Full Text Below:
Nearly two weeks have passed since the Kaohsiung gas explosion. The explosion coincided with heavy rains. As a result local residents' situation truly can be characterized as "deep waters and hot fires." Yet incredibly, prominent politicians are still trading spittle, especially the Kaohsiung City Government. It has conducted an all out effort to point the finger at others. By contrast, private sector disaster relief materiel continues to flow into the disaster area. Businesses and civic organizations have mobilized. They have rolled up their sleeves and joined the reconstruction effort. They are coming to understand the real needs of disaster victims and offering them the necessary relief. That is why residents' complaints that "The government is always a day late and a dollar short" are not without foundation.
Recent private disaster relief included both money and labor. People did not hesitate. As always, the Tzu Chi Foundation was the real "first responder." It provided meals, beds, and medical services. Practically-oriented private businesses shared their management expertise. They offered different forms of assistance. For example, TSMC, Taiwan's leading semiconductor company, declared that it would not "compete to see who donated the most money." It would instead assess the situation at the disaster area, then provide whatever was actually needed to help the victims. It repaired damage done in the affected areas. It repaired roads, built fences, sought out businesses to repair homes, attended to the safety and health needs of the community. It even built temporary bridges and brought other businesses into the relief effort. The resources expended did not become part of some "competition to see who donated the most money." Instead, they relieved the immediate and urgent needs of the victims. The money was spent where it would do the most good, on solving problems. No wonder the company promptly earned the heartfelt gratitude of the victims, and became the focus of media attention.
Government officials and civic organizations differ in their effectiveness in disaster relief and reconstruction work. There are many precedents for this. After the 9/21 earthquake, the government swiftly passed the "Disaster Prevention and Response Act," and the "Special Regulations for Reconstruction." It commissioned the Department of Health to establish a "National Emergency Medical Rescue Team." These were attempts to remedy the situation. They also played a role following Typhoon Nari. But according to the affected households, two years after the disaster, less than one percent of the housing has been rebuilt. Banks everywhere have refused loans, and people have been unable to rebuild.
Meanwhile, private donations to the 9/21 Earthquake Reconstruction Foundation added 13 billion NT. Resource waste and inefficency left people aghast. Shieh Jyh-Cherng, who took over as chief executive, inventoried the plan. He described it as "hair raising." The epicenter of the quake was Nantou County. The fault zone ran through Taichung County and Taichung City. The quake inflicted serious damage to nearly 200 school grounds. All required reconstruction. This led to the rise of the 9/21 New Campus Campaign. Fortunately, private citizens contributed vast resources and businesses adopted various projects. The love and wisdom of private citizens enabled the construction of many well-known environmentally conscious campuses in central Taiwan. These became benchmarks for reconstruction.
Disaster relief by private citizens moved more swiftly than the government's. It left victims with a heartfelt sense of gratitude. Are private sector professionals are more numerous? Does private industry have more money? Is it more flexible? Is corporate governance so much more efficient than government management? Perhaps it is none of these. Perhaps the government is merely using these as excuses. The government has sweeping administrative authority. It has the power to combine human and material resources. One man issues an order, and a hundred men snap to attention. One might well ask then, why does it never seem to get anything done? Recent editorials have criticized the government's tardy relief efforts. Some have mentioned New York City reconstruction work following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Iron fisted New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani personally took to the front lines to direct firefighting efforts. He enabled New York public life to quickly get back on track. His successor, Mayor Bloomberg, an ambitious business tycoon, embarked on radical reconstruction. He even promoted community renovation projects. New York's reputation for crime control and the New York skyline have been restored. They are as good or better than they were before 9/11. Who says governments must be inefficient? Who says government officials must be inefficient bureaucrats?
South Korea's Lee Myung-bak left the Hyundai Group to enter politics. He was eventually elected president. Some people on Taiwan are calling for "rule by CEO." They even have a specific entrepreneur in mind. They consider him a worthy candidate for the premiership. Unfortunately nothing more has been heard about this. The suspicion is that today's political atmosphere, in which "Even officials have trouble surviving," and "attack dog rule" discouraged him. Corporate CEOs turn down government appointments, but dedicate themselves to reconstruction and other socially responsible projects, Government officials pale by comparison. Contrast the two. Businesses are guided by the efficient laws of the marketplace. Governments are doomed by the evil battles of the political arena. Lest we forget, the government collects money from the taxpayers. It is obligated to attend to everyones' business. How can being a step behind the private sector be considered okay?
2014.08.13 03:22 am