Stop Refuting Opponents, Start Solving Problems
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 20, 2015
Executive Summary: Taiwan's political culture is highly polarized. This helps ensure oversight and avoid corruption. But it also leads to hard-line policies, volatility, and public works being shelved or delayed. This is how it is following the nine in one elections. Many newly elected leaders are throwing out works projects and governance plans begun by previous administrations, merely to demonstrate that “There's a new sheriff in town.” We would like to remind them that refuting opponents without solving problems hardly qualifies as progress.
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Taiwan's political culture is highly polarized. This helps ensure oversight and avoid corruption. But it also leads to hard-line policies, volatility, and public works being shelved or delayed. This is how it is following the nine in one elections. Many newly elected leaders are throwing out works projects and governance plans begun by previous administrations, merely to demonstrate that “There's a new sheriff in town.” We would like to remind them that refuting opponents without solving problems hardly qualifies as progress.
For example, over the past few days Wen-Je Ko has blasted several Taipei City BOT projects. They include the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. Ko accused the Fubon Group of "leaving a negative public perception." They include the Taipei Dome. Ko accused the Far Glory Group of "lawlessness." They include the Taipei Chiu Yeh Construction Project. Ko accused the Hon Hai Group of "selling too low." Some consortia have indeed been unscrupulous and mercenary. Someone should blow the whistle on them. Whoever does will deserve public applause. But these projects involve public works. The city government is the primary client. It has access to all the information. Wen-Je Ko should review these cases carefully, then seeks solutions. The city government can impose fines or sanctions. It can ensure a project free of defects. But Ko must not abuse his authority by defaming others.
When Wen-Je Ko throws temper tantrums, some consortia are afraid to confront him directly. They avert their eyes and chalk up their plight to bad luck. But if nothing changes once the tantrum is over, then it was “all for show.” What good is that? When Ko runs into an entrepreneur such as Terry Gou, who is refuses to take insuts lying down, he can expect a powerful backlash. Guo demanded that Wen-Je Ko take back his allegations within 48 hours. Alas, such verbal volleys will not tell us who was right and who was wrong. They will only increase social anxiety.
Wen-Je Ko removed the Zhong Xiao West Raod bus lanes. He demolished the Kunyang Bridge. He resolved the health care debt repayment problem. These moves demonstrated his courage. They merit public approval. But policy includes both long-term and short-term policy. Policy implementation includes eliminating defects and providing benefits. Short-term policy and eliminating defects alone are not enough. One must formulate both long-term policies and provide benefits. Only that will create real value for Taipei. Take the Shetzu Island development plan, for example. Does one wish to adopt the "Manhattan model" or the "Amsterdam model"? Either way, an accurate assessment must be made. One cannot simply proceed according to one's first impressions, sweeping aside any and all previous plans. In any event, Wen-Je Ko must admit that many municipal issues are complex and require knowledge and experience far beyond that of a physician, Ko must remain humble and learn from others.
Speaking of political obstructionism, the DPP has long shined. Take the STA and Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations for example. As a result of Green Camp obstructionism, they have remained stalled in the legislature for over a year. They have neither been reviewed nor voted on. Must we wait until the DPP is in power before it can be passed? Another example is fiscal improvements to the high-speed rail system. The Democratic Progressive Party opposes the Ministry of Transportation's plans. It blindly obstructs passage, but cannot offer a better alternative. Once the Department of Transportation abandoned its fiscal reform program however, and adopted a "take-over" approach, the DPP suddenly did an about face and obstructed the amendment affecting participation and awards. It refused to allow the government to take over the high-speed rail system. Such an opposition party need not consider or offer solutions. All it has to do is sit there, shake its head and say "No!” All it has to do is obstruct every proposal its opponent makes. Yet lo and behold, it is rewarded handsomely for doing so by the public come election day. When politics has degenerated to this level, what hope is there for Taiwan?
Admittedly, the contracts for the Taipei Cultural and Creative Park, or the Farglory Taipei Dome BOT project, should have been reviewed more carefully before they were signed. All sorts of complications may now arise. The impression is that the city government was "taken advantage of" or that "the consortia got sweetheart deals." If Wen-Je Ko is truly sharp, he will uncover the other side's pressure points, and enable the city government to impose fines and right wrongs. Ko should make the “unequal treaties” public, ensuring that future generations will not repeat the same mistakes. That is what he should do, rather than invoke "conspiracy theories" to tar everyone with the same broad brush, to treat all officials as corrupt, and to repudiate earnest efforts by other business owners.
The degree to which Taiwan has regressed over the past 20 years is shocking. GDP has fallen. Youth unemployment has risen. Educational quality has fallen. Even more seriously, the government has almost no ability to establish consensus. Long-term and large-scale construction plans remain frozen. People are bewildered and concerned about the nation's future. Their greatest disappointment is ruling and opposition party politicians who constantly engage in mutual recriminations, whose goal never seems to be problem solving. These politicians compete to refute each other in order to enhance their own prestige. This sort of refutation of opponents may feel good in the short term. It may enable one to vent one's spleen. But it will help society progress.
If Taiwan is not to become a mentally challenged society, people must demand that politicians think. They must refuse to take no for an answer. Voters must ask the politicians, "Do you have a better solution?" and "Why is it better?" They must force them to think things through. Politicians must cease refuting their opponents and start solving problems. Only then can Taiwan progress, both politically and economically.
Does Professor Ko's election victory count as a breakthrough or a retrogression? Ma Ying-jeou must give Eric Chu a helping hand.
2015-01-20 01:24:40 聯合報 社論