Lethal Sloppiness Revisited: One Taiwan, Two Systems
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 25, 2014
Summary: Lethal sloppiness syndrome can be overcome in two ways. One. Throw
the doors of the marketplace open to competition. Two. Revamp the system
and its oversight mechanisms to prevent malfeasance. Reject
liberalization and one will not be able to improve oversight and
oversight capabilities. Carelessness and haste will be unavoidable.
Society will be forced to endure such scandals over and over again.
Full Text Below:
On the 23rd, this newspaper published an editorial entitled, "Lethal Sloppiness: One Reason Taiwan Has Not Progressed." Private companies and government agencies have recently committed a string of sloppy and perfunctory blunders. Many readers and netizens became concerned. Some feel a deeper exploration of the causes are required. Others cite TSMC and other technology industries as counterexamples. They think many industries on Taiwan lead the world in precision and efficiency. Clearly the label of "lethal sloppiness" cannot be applied to everyone. Today's editorial elaborates on this.
As one reader said, lethal sloppiness is a label that cannot be applied to everyone. In the technology industry, Taiwan companies' precision and efficiency have made the world sit up and take notice. In this highly competitive field, any slackness leads to one's elimination. Actually, in the traditional food industry, I-Mei also pursues perfection. It does not overlook a single detail. It is not the least bit afraid that the rancid oil scandal will bring it down. Lethal sloppiness also infects government agencies. They complete their assignments in slapdash fashion. They shine the public on with bureaucratese. Only in rare instances do dedicated individuals toil away with due diligence.
Generally speaking, private companies or government agencies guilty of lethal sloppiness exhibit certain traits. One. They operate in a relatively closed environment. They lack obvious competition. Therefore they lack internal incentives. They can perform low quality work and skate by. Two. They are part of more traditional structures. They embody old business models or obey old power structures. Their operations are not dependent upon new knowledge or skills. They can get by with clever tricks or by playing a waiting game. Three. Their leaders' commands are unclear or the leaders have ulterior motives. Lacking a clear mandate, subordinates find themselves at sea. So they go through the motions and ignore content and quality.
Compare the above with the private companies and government agencies implicated during the recent scandals. With the exception of LCY Chemical Corp., such carelessness and sloppiness is not hard to find. The vast majority of sloppy businesses are domestic market oriented. They hide behind lower domestic standards and more lenient oversight. This enables them to skate by. Think about it. What nation's gas industry uses smell alone to determine whether gas is leaking? What kind of food industry watches as underground factories produce rancid oil that stinks to high heaven, yet like the Chang Guan Company, has no qualms about purchasing barrel after barrel as raw material?
Domestic or export is of course not the sole criterion for corporate quality or performance. But in practice, the export industry must accept downstream manufacturer quality control. It must also meet export nation administrative standards. As a result, manufacturers must strive to meet these standards. Only then can they ensure product quality. By contrast, the purely domestic market-oriented industries often face inspection standards lower than those mandated internationally. Intentionally or otherwise, this, coupled with government agency leniency, product or service quality inevitably tends to decline.
Over the past twenty years on Taiwan, the information and communications industries have thrived. Why? Because this sector continues to pursue precision and progress. A steady stream of global technology companies come here to develop new technologies and parts manufacture. Every day engineers from Taiwan fly all over the world, solving technical problems for their customers. In other words, when businesses look to the world stage, they become accustomed to higher standards and more willing to accept them. By doing so, they make themselves more powerful and more irreplaceable. This sector of Taiwan's economy has become a global pioneer. Most companies however, are still spinning their wheels. Many industries are no different than they were 20 or 30 years ago. They have become a slack and backward industry sector.
Take the service industry for example. Most businesses are domestic market oriented. Services have long been a relatively backward and inefficient sector on Taiwan. The sizeable financial industry is no different. Service sector output accounted for 70% of our gross domestic product. It employs almost 60% of the workforce. But insufficient innovation and scale limits it to low-wage, unskilled labor. This is why Taiwan's economic development has been weak in recent years . This is why young people remain trapped in low-wage jobs. Improving the quality and efficiency of the service sector, requires opening up one's markets to competition. Doing so enables the influx of up to date business philosophies, and stimulates industry development. Unfortunately in recent years, many people have demanded protectionism. This includes the Sunflower Student Movement, with its anti-globalization demands. Such demand have even stalled the STA. Opponents of the STA are prescribing the wrong medicine for what ails them.
In fact, the same yardstick can be applied to politics. Politics is a domestic market oriented industry. It is a closed industry sector that lacks competition. It too has become a stagnant sector. Taiwan may have blue vs. green competition. But in recent years neither the KMT nor the DPP have offered a new vision for the nation's future. The two parties merely sabotage each other, or attempt to settle old scores. Voters can effect ruling party changes through the electoral process. But Taiwan's democracy no longer has the ability to solve problems, never mind enhancing the effectiveness of the executive branch. The rancid oil scandal showed that local and central governments are clueless. That much is all too clear.
Lethal sloppiness syndrome can be overcome in two ways. One. Throw the doors of the marketplace open to competition. Two. Revamp the system and its oversight mechanisms to prevent malfeasance. Reject liberalization and one will not be able to improve oversight and oversight capabilities. Carelessness and haste will be unavoidable. Society will be forced to endure such scandals over and over again.
2014.09.25 02:03 am