Tsai Ing-wen's Five Reforms Missing Only Self-Reform
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 21, 2015
Executive Summary: The presidential election has reached the stage where the candidates must answer the question, “Where's the beef?” DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen seized the initiative and proposed "Five Reforms". These reforms include "generational justice", "improved government efficiency," "legislative reform", "transitional justice", and "an end to partisan bickering". Tsai Ing-wen characterized them as "new politics". The first three reforms are important. But her road map and direction are unclear. The last two reforms are Tsai Ing-wen's “democratic civil war” tactics, warmed over following her defeat in 2012.
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The presidential election has reached the stage where the candidates must answer the question, “Where's the beef?” DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen seized the initiative and proposed "Five Reforms". These reforms include "generational justice", "improved government efficiency," "legislative reform", "transitional justice", and "an end to partisan bickering". Tsai Ing-wen characterized them as "new politics". The first three reforms are important. But her road map and direction are unclear. The last two reforms are Tsai Ing-wen's “democratic civil war” tactics, warmed over following her defeat in 2012.
Substantively speaking, the economic data is worrisome. Exports have declined for six straight months. Second-quarter GDP growth fell 0.64%, well below the 3.05% originally forecast. The Comptroller General's Office lowered this year's economic growth forecast to 1.56%, substantially lower than the 1.72% forecast issued in May. A 3% growth rate is not assured. Even 2% is not assured. Economists agree that declines in Mainland and global economic growth are a factor. But structural factors have made Taiwan's economy far worse. Not only does Taiwan's GDP growth rate trail those of the other Asian tigers, it even trails those of the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries.
Taiwan's economic problems are severe. Yet Tsai Ing-wen's Five Reforms fail to even mention the economy. Is this an indication of Tsai Ing-wen's congenital contempt for economic development? Or does Tsai Ing-wen know her weaknesses only too well? Does she know that economics is the DPP's Achilles Heel? Is that why she has deliberately avoided all discussion of it?
Tsai Ing-wen has spun her “new politics” as “reform”. Political reform is important. But without a solid economic foundation, political harmony is impossible. Take "generational justice" for example, the first of Tsai Ing-wen's Five Reforms. According to her detailed description, it is subdivided into two categories, "checks" and "slogans".
First take checks. Tsai Ing-wen advocates social housing, affordable high-quality long-term elderly care and child care. Every politician can write social welfare checks such as these. But social welfare checks require sound finances, and sound finances require a prosperous economy.
Now take slogans. Tsai Ing-wen has promised to remove barriers to youth employment and create an environment favorable to new industries. The question is “How?” To remove barriers to youth employment and create an environment favorable to new industries, one must grow the economy. Growing the economy is not rubbing Aladdin's Lamp, or summoning the Winged Monkeys in the Wizard of Oz with a Golden Cap. Wealth does not fall from the skies like rain. One must have a farsighed and viable economic strategy. Where is the DPP's economic statecraft? The DPP has just turned in a blank test paper on economics. How can it even begin to talk about "implementing generational justice"?
Tsai Ing-wen turned in a blank test paper on economics. The DPP lacks confidence in its ability to grow the economy. Taiwan has a trade-oriented economy. To develop its economy, Taiwan must remain open to trade. Since the KMT moved to Taiwan, its economic policies have gone from import substitution to export expansion, and from there on to economic internationalization and liberalization. The KMT took the road of openness. It laid a solid foundation for Taiwan's economic miracle. But its road of openness ran counter to the anti-China Democratic Progressive Party's fundamental policies. The DPP's most serious offense has been to shroud its Closed Door Policy in the guise of Nativism. Along with social movements and student groups, it has obstructed the STA, the MTA, and the FEPZ. Its moves succeeded in sabotaging the KMT's economic achievements. But they simultaneously choked off Taiwan's already constricted economic lifeline.
Taiwan lacks natural resources. A stable energy supply is essential for Taiwan's economic development. The DPP opposes nuclear energy and the use of bituminous coal for power generation. It has placed its hopes on “renewable energy”, ignoring the fact that their limited capacity and exorbitant cost cannot meet overall demand. This pandering to populism has led to the absurdity of expecting power while refusing power plants. This summer, Taiwan's electric power equipment carrying capacity will fall to a mere 5 to 10%. The power supply situation is critical. Experts have repeatedly warned that a power crisis is imminent. It is not a matter of whether, but when.
Without a stable power supply, how can one develop the economy? In recent years, the DPP has created an anti-business climate in order to divide the public along class lines and reap the political dividends. This too, has cast a shadow over economic development.
Drifting sands lack form. Chewed wax lacks flavor. The reforms advocated by Tsai Ing-wen may sound pretty. But without the economy supplying water and cement, they will remain windblown sands. Without the economy supplying flavors, a dish labeled “reform” will remain wax models one may look at but cannot eat.
Tsai Ing-wen should give priority not to her Five Reforms, but to “One About Face” and a “Sixth Reform". The One About Face is to emphasize economics and deemphasize politics. Tsai Ing-wen should clear her head. During the election, she should talk less about politics and more about our economic survival. Exports have declined for the past 6 months. The GDP may fall below 2%. Tell the people of Taiwan how Tsai Ing-wen intends to lead Taiwan out of its economic quagmire?
The "Sixth Reform" is self-reform. Reform Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP's Closed Door Policy. Reform their habit of writing populist policy checks that bounce. Reform their habit of talking politics while neglecting economics. Unless they change this habit of theirs, talk of reform is utterly beside the point.
2015年08月21日 04:10 主筆室