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In tough times, it is difficult to believe in the government
Publication Date : 01-02-2013
It is often difficult to decide what to believe when you see things that contradict your common beliefs. This week, an international nonprofit group rated Taiwan's airport in Taoyuan among the world's top 10, while another nongovernment organisation recognised the country's efforts in curbing corruption in defence-related affairs.
Transport and defence officials certainly are elated by the recognition, but we may find ourselves reluctant to fully trust the evaluations of those groups.
After all, Taiwan has been long plagued by corruption. A former president is serving out a long prison term for taking bribes. An ex-Cabinet secretary general is being tried for corruption, and so is a former national fire chief.
The military itself is not without its own Hollywood-like murder-bribery scandal. The murder of a Navy captain believed to be trying to blow the whistle on bribe-takers among peers in a multibillion frigate procurement deal in the 1990s remains unsolved.
But now we are told that the military has become more transparent, and corruption a thing of the past. Maybe it has, but do you believe it?
The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has been undergoing a facelift. Facilities are more up-to-date, and travelers can usually enjoy friendly services.
But among the top 10? Few of us may have seen all of the world's airports, and it is difficult for us to judge. But it is some of those little things that have happened at the Taoyuan airport that make us skeptical. Haven't there been reports about water leaks and flooding in its main hall? Haven't there been reports about its ground crew damaging planes on the tarmac while operating machines?
If security is among the items evaluated, isn't it alarming to see the latest report about a convicted British drunk driver fleeing the country via the airport using a passport “borrowed” from a friend?
One of the immediate reactions to the immigration officers failing to catch the imposter is probably to ask whether or not bribery had been involved. Such questions may be justified given the history of the country's corruption.
We know some of these reports on trivial matters may be blown out of proportion, but they often serve to undermine our trust in the government sector, particularly in tough times when the people are prone to complain about anything.
So there have frequently been reports about Taiwan remaining competitive internationally, but its people simply don't feel this.
Political bickering may have polarised opinions, but in the face of an underperforming administration, the nation tends to find fault with the government rather than credit it with what it may deserve.
President Ma Ying-jeou perhaps should be lauded for taking up the challenge to reform the country's ailing pension systems. He could have procrastinated on the issue, but he has chosen to face it.
But how many of us would want to believe he is a hero — a tragic one perhaps — trying to tackle one of the thorniest matters that the country has ever faced? Or are we more apt to see him as an impotent president who is doomed to produce a reform that will please none?
Ang Lee's blockbuster Life of Pi is about belief, or what people would want to believe. Both the Japanese owner of the sunken ship and the journalist trying to dig up the amazing story of Pi choose to believe the “Tiger” version of the story over the brutal but more likely one. We suspect most of the audiences would choose the same.
After all, it is fiction, namely the movie is plotted in a way so as to lead the audiences to choose that “fantasy” side of the Pi story.
In reality, things are more complicated. Would you choose to believe that the Taoyuan airport is among the global top 10; that the military is clean; that Taiwan remains competitive economically; that Ma is a hero?