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Crisis of confidence in Taiwan's govt

Publication Date : 27-10-2012


Scandals and inability to make tough decisions rack President's team


The Taiwan government is suffering a public confidence crisis only five months into President Ma Ying-jeou's second term.

It is seen as weak and inept, out of touch at a time of economic anaemia, and scandal-prone.

According to a poll published on Wednesday by broadcaster Television Broadcasts Satellite, only 13 per cent of Taiwanese approve of Ma, a new low.

And no wonder, after months of flip-flopping on major policies, ministerial resignations, scandals and a no-confidence vote.

The rot started in April when the Ma administration was forced to stagger a planned single electricity price hike of between 16 per cent and 35 per cent following widespread backlash.

Then a furore over a proposed stocks gains tax, supported by Ma but opposed by lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang, sparked a protracted parliamentary wrangling that led to the resignation of Finance Minister Christina Liu.

A bigger blow to the administration's credibility and Ma's cherished reputation as "Mr Clean" followed. In July, Lin Yi-shih, secretary-general of the Executive Yuan or Cabinet and a member of the President's inner circle, admitted to influence-peddling involving government tenders worth a total of 146 million Taiwan dollars (US$4.98 million).

While the government survived a no-confidence vote tabled by the opposition last month over stagnant wages and inflation, thanks to the KMT's majority in the parliament, more trouble emerged when Labour Minister Wang Ju-hsuan quit the same month over differences with the Cabinet over minimum wage adjustments.

The administration was again left red-faced when Cabinet spokesman Hu You-wei, 51, a mass communications professor, went full monty on his relationship with his 24-year-old former student, on his Facebook account earlier this month. Hu resigned.

Now, rumours are flying that Premier Sean Chen himself is heading for the exit at year-end.

Observers say much is wrong with the administration. For one thing, it is too prone to wavering on unpopular but necessary changes such as the electricity hike.

Ma and Chen have also demonstrated an alarming lack of control over their team.

Before throwing in the towel, both Liu and Wang spoke openly about their differences with the administration.

"Everyone can see that opinions differ widely among the presidential office, the Executive Yuan, the ministers and KMT legislators. The government keeps wavering," wrote the Commercial Times.

On top of that, it is focusing on the right things at the wrong time.

"Faced with the global economic recession, the Ma administration has not come up with measures to tackle the challenge but instead chose this time to promote social equality by proposing the stocks gains tax," the Wealth Magazine said in a commentary earlier this year.

"This is yet another sign that the government lacks a big-picture view when it comes to the economy."


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