Monday, October 8, 2007

A Seven Year Nightmare: Genuine Corruption and Negative Contributions

A Seven Year Nightmare: Genuine Corruption and Negative Contributions
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 08, 2007

The Legislative Yuan Budgetary Research Center recently published its assessment report. It concluded that the government's contribution to the economy over the past seven years was "a negative contribution." For the past seven years, the government has been spending money with abandon, even as it has shouted high-minded slogans in an attempt to seize the moral high ground. In the end, all it did was squander the taxpayers' money and inflict incalculable pain and suffering upon the people. Actually characterizing the Democratic Progressive Party's political achievements during its eight years in office as a "negative contribution" is letting it off too easily.

The Budgetary Research Center noted that the Chen regime began squandering money several years ago. It warned of illegal budgets, uncontrolled debt expansion, and ineffective execution of policy. But the ruling party stonewalled, and the opposition party threw in the towel. Problems worsened day by day. The Chang Chun-hsiung cabinet upped the ante. By means of a "Benefit of the Week" free giveaway policy, it used taxpayer money to bribe voters into voting for the DPP. Although public opinion repeatedly considered such moves improper, the ruling regime had already reached a stage where it no longer feared criticism and merrily continued emptying out the nation's coffers in the glare of the noonday sun.

Taiwan's economy has been in decline for seven years. Actually it's not necessary for the Budget Center to remind us of this. The people are fully aware of the harsh reality. But the people need to realize is that this decline is not just about an incompetent government acting in a self-serving manner. It is also about voters sanctioning the government's perverse behavior. This must not be regarded merely as voters suffering the consequences of their own "Democratic Wet Dream." Taiwan has taken a wrong turn on its road to political evolution. The island now finds itself incapable of turning back, incapable of preventing further degeneration.

What's most laughable is that as we look back at this shattered "Democratic Wet Dream," every episode had a euphemistic sounding title. From the "Two Trillion, Twin Stars Plan," to the "8100, Taiwan Starts Moving Economic Stimulus Plan" to the "Reconciliation and Coexistence Plan," to the "Great Investments, Great Warmth Plan," and the "Benefit of the Week Plan." Prime minister after prime minister wove pipe dream after pipe dream. Every dream turned into a nightmare, from which we woke up in a cold sweat. One prime minister after another built his "castle in the air" on the ruins of his predecessor's. A seven year long pipe dream, filled with empty boasts, waste, incompetence, corruption, degradation. This is the harsh reality that Taiwan refuses to face even today.

Taiwan's past development rested on a foundation laid by a series of "Four Year Economic Construction Plans." Policies were linked in an orderly fashion. But with six prime ministers in seven years, government policy is in chaos. Social and economic policy are in tatters. Due to political considerations, national resources are channeled into projects lacking in rational justification and resulting in pointless waste. Nepotism has resulted in officials at every level of government divvying up the loot. Incidents of embezzlement and other forms of corruption surface one after the other. The Democratic Progressive Party has toppled the Kuomintang's One Party System. In its place it has erected its own even shoddier, even uglier system of dividing the spoils, even less subject to checks and balances.

The government cavalierly issues checks for a billion here, a billion there. These contribute nothing to Taiwan's economy. Any "contributions" are negative in nature. One reason is phony construction projects -- pork. Another reason is corrupt practices -- patronage. Pork barrel projects supposedly build up the nation's infrastructure. In fact they are undertaken either to stroke the ruling regime's ego, or to line the ruling regime's pockets. Such policies naturally degenerate into "waste, fraud, and corruption." Countless "mosquito halls" (unoccupied buildings that house only mosquitoes), unused airports and harbors, and "paper projects," offer ironclad evidence of the Chen regime's phony achievements and genuine incompetence.

Genuine corrupt practices involve trampling the nation's civil service system and anti-corruption mechanisms into the dust. The ruling elite and its cronies have used the opportunity to transfer the contents of the national treasury into ruling party members' private bank accounts. In recent years corruption has proliferated. From the presidential palace, through mid level officials doling out sweetheart deals to their cronies, all the way down to the back channels used by local industry, local officialdom, and academia. Compare the situation to what prevailed before regime change, and we realize Chen Shui-bian has not overthrown Lee Teng-hui's system of "Black Gold." He has merely replaced it with his own newer and more efficient form of Lee's plutocracy, directly extracting wealth from the state treasury and financial groups. This is progress of a sorts.

In fact, the Democratic Progressive Party's negative contribution is not limited to imposing eight years of economic stagnation on Taiwan. The current national debt, according to the most conservative estimates, is nearly 5 trillion NT. On average each household must bear one million NT in debt. The Democratic Progressive Party has not merely squandered the savings Taiwan patiently accumulated over the past half century, it has weakened Taiwan's international competitiveness. In the future, even we redouble our efforts, we won't necessarily be able to regain our former status as one of the Four Asian Tigers. And the DPP boasts of catching up to other nations? Isn't this the price the next generation on Taiwan will have to pay?

The Democratic Progressive Party has ruthlessly hollowed out the Republic of China in order to underwrite its would be "Nation of Taiwan." But the Nation of Taiwan can only be found somewhere over the rainbow. Meanwhile the Republic of China that everyone has sacrificed for has become weaker and weaker. Whether by sleight of hand or by magic, the nation is losing its competitiveness to pointless internal bickering, and paying a truly exhorbitant price for its collective folly.

2007.10.08 02:08 am










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