Sunday, April 3, 2011

Elections are a Paradise for Opportunistic Politicians

Elections are a Paradise for Opportunistic Politicians
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 4, 2011

At an anti-Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant banquet in Changhua, President Ma was met with shouted obscenties and insults from the host and protesters. For Ma, the occasion was an embarrassment. By contrast, when Green Camp presidential candidates Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen appeared on the dais, they chatted and laughed, and casually signed a statement promising to halt the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. They brazenly blanked out the fact that they themselves were the ones who promoted this project several years ago.

Many of those who gaze upon such a scene are likely to be deceived. They are likely to conclude that the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project was hammered out by the Ma administration, single-handedly. They are likely to conclude that the KMT cared only about economics, cared nothing about the environment, and rode roughshod over any opposition. They are likely to conclude that the KMT must have been an "evil political party that favored Big Business and failed to cherish the earth." In facdt, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. But President Ma was denied access to the microphone. This left him in an embarassing situation, unable to speak and defend himself.

The truth is just the opposite of appearances. The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant was a program vigorously promoted in 2006 by the ruling DPP government. Then Premier Su Tseng-chang and then Deputy Premier Tsai Ing-wen, trumpeted the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. They praised it as a "big investment [that would provide] lots of warmth." They ordered government agencies to fully support its implementation. The Ma administration's promotion of the project was merely the continuation of a policy Inherited from the previous administration. But as election sentiment intensified, Su and Tsai waved a magic wand and instantly become environmentalists clamoring for its cancellation. The ability of opportunists to switch sides so swiftly, in response to shifting political winds, leaves one speechless.

The Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant is a 400 billion NT investment project. The amount was staggering. That is why five years ago Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen promoted it as a "big investment." That is why Chen Shui-bian cited it as proof he had made good on his promise of "economic revitalization." Back then, Su and Tsai ordered government agencies to "sweep aside investment barriers" for large investment projects such as Kuo Kuang Petrochemical, Formosa Plastics Steel Division, and the Taichung Science and Technology Park. Tsai Ing-wen was even rumored to have lobbied EIA members. Today, these projects remain stalled in the EIA phase, unable to begin construction. Subtract these major programs from Su and Tsai's "big investment," and what is there left to boast about? Shouldn't they use this opportunity to come clean with the public?

Confronted by the hollowing out of their own policies, Su and Tsai refuse to consider the crux of the matter. Environmental protection and economic development often conflict with each other. They often amount to a zero sum game. Su and Tsai make no effort to reconcile the two. Instead they have taken the most expedient and irresponsible way out. They have joined the chorus of naysayers, donned green vests, and become "instant environmentalists." By contrast, the Ma administration, which inherited the Chen regime's policies, is seeking solutions, for both Taiwan's economy and for Kuo Kuang Petrochemical. Ironically it has become the whipping boy for opportunistic politicians.

President Ma endured public protests and public embarrassment. But that was not the worst of it. The worst was the cavalier demeanor of these opportunistic politicians, who apparently felt no sense of responsibility whatsoever. Su Tseng-chang admits that he once promoted the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. But he now argues that the global climate and the business environment have changed, deftly evading responsibility for his own role in the matter. A 400 billion NT investment project was subjected to a 30 year industry assessment process. Plant construction under the Chen regime was delayed several years. Now that the Green Camp is in the opposition however, it is obstructing the project. Business owners may strive mightily to be professional. But try as they might, what can they do when confronted by such shameless opportunism? Tsai Ing-wen said that the plant could be built in Saudi Arabia. Her remark echoed Marie Antoinette's "Then let them eat cake!" Leave aside factors such as plant location, related industries, and labor. These opportunists cannot be bothered to seek solutions for environmental problems. Instead they cavalierly pass these problems on to other countries. What sort of environmental justice is this?

Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen signed a statement promising to oppose the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. By doing so, they defaulted on their original commitments. These individuals apparently feel no anxiety, and lose no sleep over the fact that their current commitments repudiate their earlier commitments. How can anyone believe any of their commitments? If someone changes his mind because he realizes the error of his ways, that is commendable. But if someone panders to the mob, merely for the sake of votes, he is simultaneouly debasing environmentalism and revealing his own opportunism. When Tsai Ing-wen was vice premier, she expedited the construction of Nuclear Plant Four. Now however, she is singing a different tune. She is shrilly demanding a "nuclear-free homeland." How can anyone believe an "environmentalist" who straddles both sides of the fence in such a flagrant manner?

The Ma administration has chosen to continue the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. It must now attempt to solve problems the Chen regime could not, including choosing a site, undergoing environmental impact assessment, and meeting the needs of industry. President Ma could decide not to assume responsibility for this mess. He could wash its hands of the matter entirely. Doing so would save him a lot of trouble. But how would the public feel watching another administration take the easy way out? Elections must be about more than political rhetoric. Politicians' deeds must match their words. Voters must determine whether politicians are willing to face problems. They must evaluate them on the basis of their ability to govern. That is why the public must see past the theatrics surrounding the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant.

【聯合報╱社論】 2011.04.06









No comments: