Fatal Haste: One Reason Taiwan Has Not Progressed
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 23, 2014
Summary: Hasty, careless, imprecise, non-standardized approaches to doing things are fatal for any society that hopes to progress. As long as this
sort of "good enough for government work" mindset prevails, the rule of
law will remain difficult to implement, and progress will be impossible.
The rancid oil scandal was a repeat performance. It abruptly took
Taiwan back 30 years, to the "knock-off kingdom" era. Taiwan society has
discovered that many officials and citizens are still living in the
past. They are puffed up with haughty complacency They boast that they
live in an advanced nation. Astounding, no? This Taiwan disease has no
political coloration. So who among the ruling and opposition parties has
Full Text Below:
Taiwan's economic growth has slowed. Blue vs. green political opposition persists, undiminished. The economy is being strangled and politics provoke disgust. These are two barriers to the nation's progress. Yet recent events prove that private enterprise and government agencies lack seriousness. This is in fact a serious problem that prevents Taiwan society from moving forward.
Let us begin with something people feel strongly about. The Taoyuan landscape art festival exhibited a large "moon rabbit." When workers dismantled it with the conclusion of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Sparks from an overheated truck engine caused a fire. The grassy field and the moon rabbit were consumed by flames. The moon rabbit was a work by the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. His previous work, a yellow duckling, was exhibited in Taoyuan last year. But a power failure caused it to deflate. This was followed by overinflation which caused it to burst. When exhibited in Keelung, air pollution turned it into a "black duckling." This was followed by the improper use of cleaning agents, which weakened the rubber seams and caused it to explode. Hofman is unlikely to forget the ordeal his pieces have undergone while on Taiwan.
The yellow duckling exploded, twice, due to sloppiness on the part of those in charge and staff members. They failed to anticipate external variables. Could power failures and air pollution really not have been anticipated? Taiwan companies were granted the opportunity to participate in the manufacture of of the yellow duckling. They beamed with pride. But when sewing such a large piece, did they bother to take into account the strength of the seams? When they cleaned the duckling, did it never occurred to them that this might weaken the stitching at the seams? This is typical of the "stop-gap measure" mindset. Even more absurdly, when dismantling the moon rabbit, contractors touched off a conflagration. The county government and exhibitors then had the chutzpah to claim that "They were scheduled for demolition anyway." Apparently no one is to be held to account for this careless accident. Apparently it did not matter that a work of art was destroyed in such a farcical manner.
Coincidentally, the day before the Taoyuan moon rabbit became a "Burning Rabbit," a gas explosion rocked the Kaohsiung MRT project. This was the same place where two months ago a ruptured petrochemical pipe led to a benzene gas leak. This time on site personnel clearly smelled the odor of gas. Yet construction units required workers to wear gas masks and re-enter the tunnel to work, promptly triggering a gas explosion. Thirty-two people died in the Kaohsiung gas explosion. People were just recovering from the disaster. Yet the Kaohsiung MRT resumed work in such a slapdash manner. Did anyone learn a lesson from the experience? This city bills itself as a "human rights city." But does it place any value on the lives of its construction workers?
The Taoyuan and Kaohsiung city governments can of course lay all the blame on contractor neglect. But these works involve construction specifications, working conditions, as well as public safety. The government must require manufacturers to comply with contract specifications and supervise construction. If it allows them to compromise standards, if it abets shoddy construction methods or substandard materials, how can the public feel safe? How can Taiwan ensure product quality?
Following the Kaohsiung MRT gas explosion, construction units installed a large number of fans. They attempted to disperse the gas from the site by blowing air. Firefighters attempted dilute the benzene by spraying it with water. But as everyone knows, benzene is insoluble in water. We can now see just how primitive public safety is in the modern city of Kaohsiung. Information Technology long ago entered the cloud computing era. Yet the Kaohsiung City Government could not produce a complete and accurate map of its petrochemical pipelines and underground drainage culverts. Clearly Taiwan, a purported "IT Giant," is still quite a few evolutionary steps behind the times. More than 50 days later, the bodies of two firefighters were finally recovered. In fact, the "phantom" box culvert outlet was not that far away. Apparently the Kaohsiung City Government never bothered to conduct a serious and systematic search. They later trotted out some tale of "phantom" culverts to evade blame. This is truly a mark of shame for modern Taiwan.
The rancid oil scandal has shown us that the problem is callous indifference on the part of private enterprise and government agencies alike. It is one thing for Kuo Lie-cheng to process rancid oil in his underground processing plants. But when the Chang Guann Company, capitalized in the hundreds of millions, purchases oil from him, that is something else altogether. Chang Guann mixed this oil in with others and sold it to food manufacturers across the nation. How many complaints has the Pingtung County Government been barraged with over the past four years? Environmental protection, health, and agriculture officials politely went through the motions, turning a blind eye to what was going on, again and again. Human lives were at stake. Yet bureaucrats thought nothing of it. And county residents apparently still have complete faith in such a county governmenty.
These are all examples of hasty, careless, imprecise, non-standardized approaches to doing things. They are fatal for any society that hopes to progress. As long as this sort of "good enough for government work" mindset prevails, the rule of law will remain difficult to implement, and progress will be impossible. The rancid oil scandal was a repeat performance. It abruptly took Taiwan back 30 years, to the "knock-off kingdom" era. Back then Taiwan lacked resources and knowledge. Chasing after appearances was enough. But 30 years later, after so much progress, Taiwan society has discovered that many officials and citizens are still living in the past. They are puffed up with haughty complacency They boast that they live in an advanced nation. Astounding, no? This Taiwan disease has no political coloration. So who among the ruling and opposition parties has a remedy?
2014.09.23 02:02 am