Monday, March 29, 2010

The Legislative Yuan should be the Primary Mechanism for National Policy Debate

The Legislative Yuan should be the Primary Mechanism for National Policy Debate
United Daily News editorial
A Translation
March 29, 2010

Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen may debate ECFA. But this is not the normal way to conduct a national policy debate. This process occurred outside the system. The "Two Yings Debate" has highlighted the failure of national policy debate within the constitutional framework. In particular, it has highlighted the Legislative Yuan's failure to do its duty.

The controversy over ECFA has continued for a year and a half. The executive branch has failed to allay public anxieties. The main reason is the Blue camp majority in the legislature did not treat the problem seriously and failed to take aggressive action. That is not all. Health insurance fees have been raised. The civil service job performance evaluation system has turned into a major controversy. Most legislators watch idly. They have no intention of holding a debate to establish a community-wide consensus. As a result, the public has heaped all the responsibility on the shoulders of the executive branch. Meanwhile, the legislature sits to one side enjoying the breeze. Does such an entity truly merit the honorific, "The Legislature?"

What role should the legislature play in the formulation of national policy? A look at recent U.S. health-care reforms, which underwent a long and grueling process, should give us an answer. On the surface, reforms were single-handedly launched by President Barack Obama. But a deeper look reveals that once the decision was made, the ruling and opposition parties, as well as the public, debated its pros and cons. Both houses of congress, as well as federal and state governments, repeatedly scrutinized and revised its provisions. The impact of the new system on trade unions, hospitals, drug manufacturers and the insurance industry, has been made known to the upper echelons of government. One by one, the executive branch communicated and consulted with industry, and reached compromises.

Obama did not promote U.S. health care reform merely by virtue of his noble ideals and strength of will. He made use of the nation's democratic institutions. The various parties repeatedly clashed, but eventually reached a compromise. Members of the public still have many differences of opinion regarding the program. After ten months of debate, the house and the senate each proposed their own version. They debated the issue repeatedly before finally taking a vote. The version approved by the House of Representatives includes more than 2000 pages. It established hundreds of complicated rules for different kinds of insurees. The representatives debated all of them, one by one. In short, this ambitious blueprint for reform was not made possible by rumor mongering, fisticuffs, or physically occupying the podium.

Health insurance reform in the US was no less controversial than ECFA in the ROC. The Republican Party boycotted it. Even many Democrats found their hands tied by local interests and were unable to cast affirmative votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shuttled back and forth. The Obama administration amended the abortion provisions, prohibiting federal funds for abortions. Only then was the Democratic Party able to secure enough votes for passage. Pelosi has her own ideology, but she is also pragmatic about political strategy. She was concerned more about party unity than about seeking a government-opposition alliance. This is the main reason the White House bill was able to pass its reforms. Reform cannot be realized through ideals alone. One must also take into account reality and feasibility. The more times a policy has been forged under intense heat, the stronger it becomes.

But the Legislative Yuan of the ROC seems to have forsaken its responsibility to reflect public opinion and to establish a public consensus. The Legislative Yuan could have been more aggressive about promoting ECFA. It could have encouraged the executive to offer a better sales pitch. It could have played a role as communicator, allowing different industries holding different opinions the opportunity to dialogue. The Legislative Yuan is the nation's highest representative body. If it had been doing its job, why would Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen need to hold a debate outside the government framework? The process of dispelling public doubts could have been conducted by the legislature via public hearings or other means. Any exchange of views would have been more extensive and diverse. But ruling and opposition party legislators were indifferent. Some attempted to incite even greater conflict. The legislature's indifference and negativity reveal just how alienating politics on Taiwan can be.

Our current political predicament is not the result of Blue vs. Green confrontation. It is the result of no means to bridge the great divide. That is why the two sides can only resort to populist demagoguery. That is why they can only shout propaganda at each other, and spread rumors about each other. But decisions are often not made at the extremes of the spectrum, between black and white. Rather, they are often made between zero and one. Finding a balance, where the winner does not take all, and the loser does not lose all, is a political art.

The legislature can transform itself into a forum for the debate of political and policy issues. Government and opposition legislators can introduce different opinions from different regions and constituencies. Such turmoil helps the executive branch understand the problem. It enables it to find the best solution for policy dilemmas. KMT legislators hold far more seats in the legislature. Yet it is unable to shepherd the ruling party's decisions through the legislature. What a shame. If DPP legislators engage in indiscriminate obstructionism out of ideological bias, then they are selfish and contemptible. Lest we forget, the legislature has had its seats reduced by half. But its ability to oversee the nation's affairs must not be reduced by half.

2010.03.29 02:34 am









Friday, March 26, 2010

Is ECFA a Phony Issue?

Is ECFA a Phony Issue?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 26, 2010

President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih have expressed their willingness to debate ECFA with DPP chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen has finally relented, saying that "The leaders of the two parties will have to debate ECFA eventually." But she then demanded that the ruling and opposition party caucuses in the legislature first conduct an investigation and submit a report. The consensus is that Tsai Ing-wen has responded tactically, but deliberately thrown up obstacles strategically.

ASEAN plus One is already a reality. ECFA is now a matter of urgency. Its signing is scheduled for June. For Tsai Ing-wen to lay down the condition that "The Legislative Yuan must conduct an independent investigation" at such a late date, is merely a ploy to delay the process by two months, then shrug off any debate, alleging that the "The Ma administration is not serious." This will allow it to shift the responsibility onto Ma Ying-jeou, and leave the debate hanging in the air.

Quibbling over the "Two Yings Meeting" has gone on for some time. The "Two Yings" are of course Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen has constantly evaded the issue. The debate has now been demoted to the level of a "Two Yings Debate over ECFA." Only then was Tsai Ing-wen willing to respond tactically. Even then, she still laid down strategic obstacles. Actually, what the current political scenario needs is a "Two Yings Macro Level Political Debate" over the nation's overarching political and economy strategy, not a "Two Yings Special Topics Debate" over ECFA. ECFA is not intrinsically a phony issue. But the bipartisan debate over ECFA has turned it into a phony issue.

The DPP says it "is unclear about what ECFA is," and keeps demanding that the Ma administration "make clear what it means." But others wonder, if the DPP is really unclear about what ECFA is, then why is it so vehement in its opposition? Tsai Ing-wen has even demanded that the Legislative Yuan conduct an independent investigation and submit a report, providing a basis for the debate. But the DPP has been opposed to ECFA all along, regardless of the facts. Does it really need an "independent investigation" to justify its opposition?

As noted earlier, what is needed currently is a "Two Yings Macro Level Political Debate" over the nation's overall strategic political and economic path, not merely a debate over ECFA alone. The Ma administration's political framework is contained within the 1992 Consensus, One China, Different Interpretations, and No Reunification, No Independence, and No Military Conflict. The Ma administration's trade and economic framework is contained within ECFA. The DPP's political strategy since it stepped down in 2008 meanwhile, remains undetermined. One could say that it simply has no benchmark against which it can evaluate ECFA. In other words, If the Democratic Progressive Party advocates Taiwan independence and the founding of a new nation, it will have one opinion of ECFA. If the Democratic Progressive Party were to change its Taiwan independence path, it would have a different opinion of ECFA. Since the DPP's positions on national identity and the constitution remain indeterminate. how can it even talk about cross-Strait relations? How can it even talk about ECFA? No wonder some are wondering, can Tsai Ing-wen really "represent" the Democratic Progressive Party at all?

The Republic of China's constitutional strategy and cross-Strait trade and economic strategy must be consistent. A constitutional and political strategy that leads to an economic and trade dead end is impracticable. A cross-Strait strategy that leads to an economic and trade dead end is also impracticable. The DPP has yet to clarify its constitutional strategy. It has yet to tell us whether it still advocates Taiwan independence. It has yet to clarify its cross-Strait strategy. It has yet to tell us whether it still opposes exchanges. Until it does so, how can we know what benchmarks is it using to evaluate ECFA?

Some members of the public may not be aware of ECFA is. But are DPP party leaders really unclear about the main thrust of ECFA? For example, the purpose of ECFA is to cope with globalization and regional economic entities. It is a necessary defensive measure in response to ASEAN plus N, It does not increase imports of agricultural items. It does not introduce mainland workers. It stipulates relief for impacted industries. It stipulates a beneficial "early harvest list." It even includes a "termination clause." Besides, apart from ECFA, what alternatives do we have? Is the Democratic Progressive Party leadership really unclear about all this? Tsai Ing-wen has been involved in WTO and cross-Strait affairs for years. Is she really unclear about all this? Or is she merely using the pretext "I'm unclear" to demagogue the issue? ECFA is not a phony issue per se. But the bipartisan debate over ECFA has turned it into a phony issue.

The Ma administration has a political and economic framework for the Republic of China. From the top down that framework is: a constitutional strategy based on national identity, leading to cross-Strait strategy, leading to economic and trade strategy. In practice, from the bottom up, that framework is: to use economic and trade strategy to stabilize the cross-Strait strategic situation. To use cross-Strait strategy to safeguard the Republic of China and its constitutional framework of "One China, Different Interpretations." Therefore in order to evaluate ECFA, one must take into account this three-tiered strategy. If one fails to talk about constitutional strategy and cross-Strait strategy, and talks only about economic and trade strategy, one may as well follow the prescriptions offered by Green oriented think tanks, and urge industries to set up factories in any of the ASEAN countries. Therefore, if any debate between the Two Yings addresses the issue of ECFA in isolation, it will not solve the problem. What is needed is a Two Yings Debate over the nation's macro level political and economic path. Only that will allow the Republic of China to find a way out of its problems.

Interestingly enough, Tsai Ing-wen's "Platform for the Decade," will soon be made public. Rumor has it the first issue it raises is, surprise surprise, "A Vision for Taiwan's Prosperity," rather than "An Affirmation of Taiwan's Primacy and Its Constitution." How can one assess ECFA by turning a blind eye to the issues and talking only about constitutional strategy? Unless the DPP first makes clear its position on Taiwan independence, how can it offer an extravagant vision for Taiwan's prosperity?

2010.03.26 02:33 am










Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does the DPP Really Want to Debate, or is It Deliberately Sabotaging Debate?

Does the DPP Really Want to Debate, or is It Deliberately Sabotaging Debate?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 25, 2010

The cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will be signed in June. Yesterday President Ma Ying-jeou declared that he was willing to debate this important issue with DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Seldom does a ruling party make such an offer to the political opposition on its own initiative. The DPP no long has any excuse to evade debate. According to the latest opinion polls, 92% of the Green Camp's supporters favor a debate between the government and the opposition DPP. This number is even higher than the number for Blue Camp supporters. Tsai Ing-wen has responded to internal party pressure. Unfortunately, she has deliberately laid down all sorts of of preconditions. She appears intent on sabotaging any possible debate.
Tsai Ing-wen has trotted out any number of excuses for her reluctance to debate. One excuse is that before the nations of the world enter major trade negotiations, they invariably call for independent studies. Any such studies would be used during future oversight and review, and ensure that oversight and review of ECFA would be substantive and meaningful. But the ECFA about to be signed by the two sides is merely a framework. It does not merit the appellation, "trade negotiations." Some people still fear the impact ECFA may have on certain industries once it is signed. There is no reason why an in-depth report cannot be ordered. But the Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research and other think tanks already conducted in-depth investigations long ago. Think tanks close to the Democratic Progressive Party have also conducted independent studies. ECFA, after all, is not the 3/19 Shooting Incident. The Legislative Yuan is the highest representative body of the nation. Should it conduct such a study? Is it competent to conduct such a study? Many doubt it.

Tsai Ing-wen wants the Legislative Yuan to conduct a study of ECFA. DPP spokesman Tsai Chi-chang also proposed the establishment of an effective negotiating mechanism. Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng agrees there should be a cross-Strait affairs oversight committee. Wang Jin-pyng favors systematic organization of the Legislative Yuan's tasks. He favors comprehensive monitoring of the government's cross-Strait policies, rather than the establishment of ad hoc oversight committees, saying the two can not be compared. What does the DPP want? An ECFA oversight committee? Or a cross-Strait affairs oversight committee? No matter what it wants, the Legislative Yuan has the authority to oversee all government policies, bills, and budgets, including ECFA. Debates between the government and the political opposition need not be linked to the Legislative Yuan's authority. If the two must be linked, then the debate between the ruling and opposition parties can be held in the Legislative Yuan, between party cadres. Why must the chairman be called into action?

Tsai Ing-wen also stressed the need to promote a second ECFA referendum. In fact the DPP began an ECFA referendum signature drive last year. But the referendum was rejected by the Referendum Committee. Who knew that although little has changed, the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union's second signature drive would succeed? The Referendum Committee may reverse its previous ruling, and suddenly approve a referendum on ECFA. ECFA is merely an agreement about the framework of future talks. Only after it is signed, can the two sides begin negotiations and consultations within the framework. What is the point of holding a referendum on an agreement that merely contains a table of contents, but no actual content?

Tsai Ing-wen has criticized the Ma administration, saying not only does it seem determined to sign ECFA, it has established a timetable, and is moving along faster and faster, creating cause for concern. Actually, the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has been in the works for a year and a half. Everthing from its name to its signing date have been repeatedly postponed. The reason it must be signed this year has nothing to do with Ma administration's wishes. It has to do with the ASEAN Free Trade Area, which was launched earlier this year. From the perspective of national competitiveness, signing ECFA in June is already late.

The atmosphere on Taiwan is full of divisive rhetoric. People habitually turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to rhetoric different from their own. Over the past year, volumes of information on ECFA have been made available by the Council of Agriculture, the Council of Labor Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Mainland Affairs Council. Each of these agencies has offered talking points. Leave aside the question of quality, and look only at the quantity. The volume has far exceeded the volume for other major economic policies. Most people cab remain indifferent to ECFA, which is merely an agreement over the framework of future negotiations. But the DPP must act responsibly. It is an opposition party that was in power for eight years. The DPP has no excuse for engaging in irrational obstructionism. The Democratic Progressive Party need not accept the government's official spin. But it must offer concrete justifications for its opposition.

Since the second change in ruling parties in 2008, leaders of the government and the political opposition have remained at loggerheads. Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly expressed a willingness to debate Tsai Ing-wen, but has never received a response. Based on this alone, Tsai Ing-wen does not compare with former KMT Chairman Lien Chan, who handed over power in 2000. The Ma/Tsai debate remains a non-starter. Therefore it will not generate any political sparks. Tsai Ing-wen might as well come out of hiding. The Republic of China is a mature democracy. Party politics have persisted for twenty years. People may have their own political preferences. But they will not say no to their party chairmen meeting face to face. In fact, they welcome a debate between the two chairmen. Elections are about winning and losing. Post election debates on the other hand, are about healthy political exchanges. Blue reunificationist vs. Green independence rhetoric on Taiwan has corrupted political discourse far too long. Government and opposition leaders must lead by example. They must reestablish a normal and healthy political culture. A debate over ECFA would be a good first step.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.25
民進黨真要辯論 還是故意要破局








Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Neither the Government nor the Opposition Should Be Afraid To Debate ECFA

Neither the Government nor the Opposition Should Be Afraid To Debate ECFA
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 24, 2010

This time last year, President Ma specifically asked his administration to step up communications over the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The government issued its first statement on the matter. A year has passed. Just exactly what is ECFA? Most people still don't know. They listen, but still don't understand. According to the Wang Wang Media Group's latest poll, among the 70% who know Taipei and Beijing are about to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement, only 33% feel they understand the substance of the agreement. Two months later, according to the Ma administration's timetable, a majority of the public still does not understand it. This has led to serious Blue vs. Green confrontations over whether to sign. Both the government and the opposition refuse to publicly debate the issue. Instead, they have treated it as a political or campaign tool. This has not helped the nation's economic development. Nor has it helped to establish a national consensus.

The two sides began permitting exchanges over 20 years ago. Private sector exchanges have been akin to the river flowing into the sea -- difficult to stop. Politics has progressed from hostility to reconciliation. Economics has progressed from isolation to interdependence. Unfortunately the 60 year long cross-Strait confrontation has created a unique historical situation. It has created a peculiar atmosphere on Taiwan, one in which reunification and independence are unable to coexist. The atmosphere has become increasingly strained with increasing political openness. If reunification vs. independence disputes were merely election rhetoric, the problem would not be so serious. But reunification vs. independence issues dictate cross-Strait policy. Both government and opposition political leaders must realize that their reunification vs. independence political positions have created an insoluble dilemma for Taiwan.

The latest Wang Wang China Times poll numbers underscore the above-mentioned difficulties. According to the Wang Wang China Times poll, and a poll conducted by Commonwealth magazine and Global Views magazine, as many as 73% of the public on Taiwan feel that if the Republic of China fails to sign trade agreements with nearby countries, the failure will seriously affect Taiwan's economic development. Nevertheless 36% of the public still does not support ECFA. However, in the overall interests of the the Republic of China, over half, or 51% of the public supports ECFA. More supporters live in the North than the South. More opponents live in the South than the North. This underscores the regional differences.

Does the public really not understand that ECFA is an economic agreement? Does the public really not appreciate the international pickle the Republic of China is in? If the two sides fail to sign this agreement, the Republic of China will find it impossible to sign economic and trade agreements with neighboring countries. Does the public really not understand that the ASEAN Free Trade Area has already been launched, and that if the Republic of China falls further behind, it will be irreversibly marginalized?

There is no denying that if the two sides sign ECFA, some industries will profit and others will suffer. The government and the public must make decisions that will maximize the benefits and minimize the deficits. Who will tell us what is to our benefit? Who will tell us what is to our deficit? Besides the pros and cons, what other programs and measures are involved? The government repeatedly issues statements. It frequently introduces new talking points. The opposition party was in power for eight years. Besides accusing others of "selling out Taiwan," it has never offered any concrete reasons for its opposition. The Ma administration has repeatedly declared that it will absolutely not allow workers and agricultural products to enter from the Chinese Mainland. And yet the DPP still cites this as a reason for its criticism and opposition. It is unwilling even to do a little homework. It is unwilling to ensure that industries on Taiwan receive more benefits from the "early harvest" list to be announced in April.

Now for the vulnerable industries. Let us cite just one example. The Chen regime accused Mainland China of "dumping" cloth towels on the market. At the time, current Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council Lai Hsing-yuan was a legislator. She led the charge. She forced the Ministry of Economic Affairs to invoke WTO standards. She demanded arbitration. Meanwhile the towel industry on Taiwan was undergoing radical upgrading. It is now producing high-quality towels. The Mainland Affairs Council has protected industries on Taiwan far better than the DPP government. The accusation of "selling out Taiwan" simply will not stick to the Ma administration. If the DPP still wants to oppose ECFA, then why not have the courage to debate it? It is time to clear the air, once and for all. Stop using simplistic McCarthyite tactics to paint Taiwan's economy into a corner.

Premier Wu Den-yih has agreed to a debate between the government and the opposition DPP. According to polls, the DPP figure the public most hopes will participate in the debate is Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen was a national security aide under Lee Teng-hui. She served as Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and as Vice Premier in the Executive Yuan under the Chen regime. Her thinking was clear. Her tongue was sharp. She was also familiar with the ins and outs of cross-Strait policy. She is indeed a most suitable candidate for the debate. Unfortunately Tsai Ing-wen has been dodging the debate. Late last year President Ma Ying-jeou openly declared his willingness to debate with Tsai Ying-wen, even about ECFA. Chairman Tsai demurred, and asked how can we hold a debate on issues that have not been clarified? Today, faced with intense public demand for a debate, Tsai Ing-wen's staffers are saying that if Tsai agrees to a debate, her opponent must be Ma Ying-jeou. They said that Ko Chien-min, executive director of the DPP Policy Committee, was highly qualified and would debate Premier Wu. Ko Chien-min undoubtedly has plentiful experience with the DPP's party affairs. But the public also knows that Ko Chien-min lacks eloquence. The Democratic Progressive Party is not merely terrified of a debate. It is throwing obstacles in the way of a debate.

Cross-Strait policy is an important subject that the Republic of China government can not avoid. If it is not resolved today, it will continue to confront us tomorrow. The public wants a policy debate, not verbal abuse. That is a rather modest expectation. The leaders of the ruling Blue and opposition Green political parties must take this matter seriously. They must not treat it as merely another political campaign. It concerns Taiwan's economic prosperity, and even its future.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.24
社論-論辯ECFA 朝野都不容怯戰









Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Civil Service Evaluation System Reform: Jihad or Terrorism?

Civil Service Evaluation System Reform: Jihad or Terrorism?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 23, 2010

Reform of the civil service evaluation system will necessarily provoke intense conflict. This is hardly surprising. What is surprising is how government heads have taken the lead in badmouthing such reforms.

Two issues are involved in the dispute over civil service evaluation system reform. One concerns principles. The other concerns technical obstacles. Each has provoked both positive and negative reactions. During debates, Wu Den-yih, Li Yong-ping, and other government heads left the public with the impression they were sacrificing their principles merely because they had encountered some technical obstacles. What these government heads should have done, was to approach technical obstacles from the perspective of principle, and aspired to create a system the public could respect.

First, we should make clear just how much slack the new system has. Kuan Chung said "If one gets a C rating this year, no problem. Just work hard and get an A next year." This remark exposed the new system as a "toothless tiger." Under new regulations, 3% of all personnel will be given a C rating. Anyone who receives three consecutive C ratings will be forced to retire or laid off. But nobody is likely to receive three consecutive Cs under the existing system, unless there is absolutely no alternative. What Kuan Chung said in effect was, "So what if one gets two consecutive Cs? Just get a B next year!" In other words, in actual practice, the new system's mechanism for "punishing poor performance and eliminating poor performers" is virtually non-existent. The mandatory C ratings for 3% of all personnel will have nothing more than a warning effect, or "catfish effect."

The "catfish effect" is what happens when a catfish is introduced into a tank full of sardines. The catfish alarms the sardines, forcing them to remain active. The catfish does not actually eat the sardines. If such a softball evaluation system were implemented in Singapore or South Korea, the number of C ratings handed out would be set at 10% or more. In fact, even 10% is too lenient. This is why the public thinks the new system is weak. From a management perspective, we agree. If government heads fail to point civil servants in the right direction, if they fail to acknowledge the legitimacy of civil service reform, but instead speak of "technical obstacles" or even demonize reform efforts and encourage civil servants to take to the streets, we consider it incomprehensible.

Wu Den-yih, Li Yong-ping, and others have raised concerns about the new system. Their concerns are not unreasonable. For example, if every agency, good or bad, big or small, is forced to give 3% of its personnel C ratings, that may be unfair. But if one compares public schools against other public schools, and private schools against other private schools, then one public school must be in last place. One cannot refuse to rate other public schools merely because one does not wish to give a particular public school a C rating. Giving 3% of all agencies, good or bad, big or small, C ratings may involve technical obstacles. But government heads have heavy responsibilities. They cannot refuse to see the forest for the trees.

Even stranger reasons have been trotted out. Some have actually said that "a government head handing out ratings is like someone wielding a knife. Good people get cut, bad people purge their opponents." But this is a problem every office in the world must cope with. Even without C ratings for 3% of all employees, concerns over who gets an A and who gets a B remain, even under our current system. Government heads have heavy responsibilities. Is it not shocking that they would invoke the standards of the "man in the street" when evaluating civil service reform?

Reform is like war. Those who direct the war, must define the war. The Examination Yuan has referred to reform as a "jihad." It has apparently become what Wu Den-yih and Li Yong-ping have described as "terrorist activities." Government reform efforts have been incorrectly spun as a civil war between civil servants. A government ought to act in unison. This war has been misnamed, making it difficult to prosecute. It has become a case of "I do not know what I'm fighting for, and I do not know whom I'm fighting for."

How an issue is perceived, depends upon how it is defined. Reform of the civil service evaluation system can improve civil servants' self-esteem and sense of honor. It can also incite discontent within the ranks of the civil service. Wu Den-yih and other government heads are not being unreasonable when they cite "technical obstacles." But if inflammatory speech succeeds in demonizing such a moderate, even slack new system in the minds of civil servants, then thes government heads have acted irresponsibly, and their political response must be considered a debacle.

This debate over civil service evaluation reform has mired the Ma administration in "civil strife," in a "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" dilemma. The government has defined its reform efforts as a "jihad." Some may oppose a jihad, but at least those who support it will give it their seal of approval. But if even some in the government consider the government's reform efforts "terrorist activities," those who oppose it will continue to oppose it. And even those who support it will be disillusioned by the government's "civil strife." Voter support will evaporate as a consequence of one such fiasco after another.

Reform is like war. Those who direct the war, must first define the war.

2010.03.23 02:19 am





吳敦義與李永萍等對新制提出的有些質疑,或許不無道理。例如各機關不論大小良莠均三 %打丙,有失公平。但建國中學的成績與建中比,私立補校與私立補校比;不能說建中就不可有最後一名。更何況,尤其不能因建中不「打丙」,就讓全國的中學也打不成。機關不論大小良莠皆三%打丙,容或真有技術障礙,但站在行政首長的高度,卻不可見樹不見林。






Sunday, March 21, 2010

Profit Sharing: In the Long Term Interest of Both Sides

Profit Sharing: In the Long Term Interest of Both Sides
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 21, 2010

Taipei and Beijing underwent a crisis when Washington sold Taipei arms. Nevertheless consultations over the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) remained unaffected. Recently, while speaking before the National People's Congress, Mainland Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao even announced a policy of "profit sharing" with Taipei. If this pragmatic policy can be implement in good faith at all levels, we can expect positive and far-reaching impacts.

Mainland Chinese leaders consider cross-Strait differences a fraternal quarrel. They may have differences of opinion with Taipei. Their positions may differ. But blood remains thicker than water. In negotiations over the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, Beijing is willing to "share profits" as an expression of sincerity and goodwill. If we read between the lines, Beijing seems to be implying that it is willing to make even more concessions during future negotiations, or to allow Taipei to receive even more benefits.

In fact this responds to the concerns of many on Taiwan. A clear disparity exists between Mainland China and Taiwan in size, population, markets, economies of scale, and international status. Some on Taiwan are afraid of being swallowed up or inundated. They feel insecure as they face an uncertain future. After decades of cross-Strait confrontation, exchanges and cooperation have only just begun. They have yet to take effect. The public remains unable to lower its guard. Long-term hostilities cannot be dissolved overnight. That is why even though the government has talked until it is blue in the face, many people on Taiwan remain dubious. They worry that once the door is opened, the local economy will wither and die. Beijing has now explicitly declared a willingness to engage in "profit sharing" with Taipei. Whether this will be translated into concrete moves remains to be seen. The public on Taiwan is adopting a wait and see attitude. It will arrive at its own conclusions about Beijing's goodwill based on the evidence.

Cross-Strait consultations have never been purely consultative. Even ECFA, ostensibly only about trade and investment matters, is not confined to economic relations and trade agreements. The key of course is which items will be allowed in. Based on negotiations and the final agreement, each side will make political declarations to each other and their own constituents. More importantly, they will lay out their plans for the future. The two sides are still being integrated. What is covered on the Early Harvest list remains uncertain. If we want negotiations to be completed on schedule in May, and the agreement signed at the Chiang-Chen meeting in June, we clearly need to step up consultations. We also need to seek internal consensus on Taiwan. The agreement is merely an expression of bilateral attitudes. For Beijing the most important issue is what kind of message it wants to send Taipei. When it comes time for negotiations, it will naturally incorporate its concerns into its political considerations.

Why should the two sides turn swords into plowshares? Because any conflict will directly impact both sides. It will also undermine the next generation's chances of living together in peace and prosperity. Why do we need to sign ECFA? Because it is the basis for wide-ranging economic and trade cooperation. It will provide increased opportunities for Taiwan's prosperity. It will allow cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation to enter a new and more intensive stage.

Of course certain industries may be affected. The same was true when Taipei was admitted to the WTO. Because Mainland China is such an important global economic power, Taipei has an opportunity to establish more favorable relations with others. It has no reason not to seize the opportunity. Some people are worried that Taiwan may be swallowed up. But in a globalized world, as long as one is able to find one's own niche, one can establish one's own little piece of heaven. The real fear is that one will shrink and retreat. We must not do nothing merely because we are afraid of the risk. Doing nothing may cost us even more.

The specifics of the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement will be decided over the next two months. They may require something of a tug of war. Beijing may need to show what "profit sharing" means in more concrete terms. That might ease public concerns, and enable this vital framework for cross-Strait relations succeed. That might contribute to a peaceful and friendly interactive environment, helping the two sides put past grievances behind them, promote mutual understanding and tolerance, and find better ways of dealing with differences.

We are promoting cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation for our own sake, to ensure our future and to seize opportunities. If Beijing were to make certain concessions, they might be perceived in the short term as "profit sharing." But in the long term they would benefit both sides. Beijing would not be granting concessions to Taipei. Beijing would be demonstrating an even greater commitment to the future.










Friday, March 19, 2010

Taiwan Does Not Have Fat Cat Syndrome. It Has Red-Eye Syndrome

Taiwan Does Not Have Fat Cat Syndrome. It Has Red-Eye Syndrome
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 19, 2010

The CEO of the Taiwan Asset Management Corporation (TAMCO) lined his own pockets at company expense. The Legislative Yuan Finance Committee took advantage of the resulting wave of populist sentiment. It swiftly passed a resolution capping salaries for the chairmen and general managers of public or quasi-public utilities at 32,000 a month. According to information collected by the legislators, the current annual salaries are: Taiwan Stock Exchange (TSE) 7.63 million, the Gre Tai Securities Market (GTSM) 8.28 million, the Taiwan Depository & Clearing Corporation (TDCC) 5.62 million, the Taiwan Futures Exchange (Taifex) 634 million. Their average monthly salary exceeds 50 million, nearly three times that of ministry heads. Naturally everyone is jealous.

Who are the people occupying the aforementioned positions? They are none other than people such as former Financial Supervisory Commission chairman Sean Chen and former CEPD vice chairman Schive Chi. Besides the FSC chief, those in charge include the president of the Industrial Technology Research Institute under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the chairman of the External Trade Development Council. These positions are considered sinecures. The Ministry of Finance also controls a large number of public shares, hence cushy jobs. If these sinecures were monopolized by a tiny coterie of retired officials, outside suspicions would be understandable. When they were in office, they may not have made any extraordinary contributions. Their placement in these sinecures was the result of sponsorship by former superiors, rather than a shining record in the marketplace. Their extravagant salaries would provoke envy, and it would be hard to avoid characterizing their positions as patronage.

The vice-premier has reportedly discussed the issue of salaries for heads of public enterprises. The Executive Yuan raised a number of questions. It asked about the contributions made by those occupying these sinecures. "Were their contributions greater than those of Central Bank CEO Peng Hui-nan?" When challenged using such a high standard, these fat cats would find it hard to declare "My contribution is no less than his." But such comparisons involve a number of blind spots.

First of all, the Stock Exchange and the Gre Tai Securities Market are headed by former cabinet ministers. That is why the Executive Yuan cites Peng Hui-nan in comparison. If the CEO of trhe Taiwan Stock Exchange was not a retired official, but the manager of a private sector securities firm, or a well known foreign business manager, how would his contribution stack up against Peng Hui-nan's? We are used to seeing these job openings as the exclusive domain of retired political appointees. That is why we compare their salaries against those of cabinet ministers. We provide them a salary of 320,000 NTD, twice what a political appointee receives, and consider ourselves generous. But such a perspective assumes that the position is only about patronage. Admittedly, the issue can be demagogued to good effect. But that would be a very narrow view of the matter.

Logically speaking, public enterprises need to be well managed. They are not retirement communities. Morris Chang once served as president and chairman of the Industrial Technology Research Institute. This laid the foundation for TSMC's future. If legislators were to check out "President Chang's" salary back then, they would realize that today's "fat cats" are emaciated by comparison. They don't even rate. If one is determined to manage a public enterprise well, one needs to bring someone of Morris Chang's caliber back to Taiwan. One must offer him an appropriate salary. If we had another chance to create a wafer miracle, the government ought to pay such pioneers salaries over ten times that of cabinet ministers, not two times that of cabinet ministers. Talent has a market value. A manager has a manager's market value. Therefore, when one is seeking out talent, the salaries depend upon the invidual. They should not be set artificially. When one is seeking to put an end to patronage on the other hand, even twice the salary of a cabinet minister is too much. It all depends on one's perspective. It all depends upon how the legislature views the matter.

We favor salary caps for retired political appointees. In fact, we feel their salaries should not exceed those for cabinet ministers. But we do not favor salary caps for the heads of the Taiwan Stock Exchange, the Gre Tai Securities Market, and the Industrial Technology Research Institute. The same job can be filled by different people. Only if one is providing patronage for retired cabinet ministers, will one make comparisons with cabinet minister. If one is recruiting outside talent, one will not think in such terms. Salary caps would of course be irrelevant. Also, if these posts are filled by retired cabinet ministers changing track, the government need only stipulate that a particular individual should have his salary capped. The difference can be deposited in the government's coffers. There is no need whatsoever to limit the salary for the position as such.

The Legislative Yuan views the Taiwan Stock Exchange and the Gre Tai Securities Market as sinecures for retired cabinet ministers. This is a shallow and narrow perspective. Consider Chiu Cheng-hsiung. He retired as Minister of Finance. He then became the CEO of Grand Cathay Securities and the Aetna Commercial Bank. The former vice president of the Executive Yuan is now the CEO of the Yongfeng Holding Company. How do his contributions stack up against those of Peng Hui-nan? Such comparisons are difficult to make. Is his salary capped? Probably not. Is he a fat cat? Probably not. His income is determined by the marketplace. In short, from the perspective of elected representatives, retired officials are all fat cats. But from the perspective of civil society and the marketplace, our elected representatives are all unreasonable. This is the sad reality on Taiwan.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.19
台灣有紅眼症 沒有肥貓症


前述這幾個職位現在由哪些人在擔綱呢?不外是前金管會主委陳?、前經建會副主委薛琦等。除了金管會主管事業外,經濟部轄下也有工研院院長、外貿協會董事長等肥缺,而財政部公股掌控的油滋滋職位也不少。這些肥缺若是由少數卸任政府官員所盤據,外界質疑就在所難免。他們在就任之前也不曾有過什麼豐功偉業,而其進駐肥缺靠 的是老長官的提攜拉拔,不是市場上的輝煌戰績。若是如此,那麼其高薪惹人嫌惡,恐怕就與「酬庸」兩個字難脫關係了。






Thursday, March 18, 2010

Health Insurance Problems Will Persist Even If Yang Chih-liang Stays

Health Insurance Problems Will Persist Even If Yang Chih-liang Stays
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 18, 2010

Director of Health Yang Chih-liang has decided to "temporarily remain in office." Yang resigned over the health insurance premiums controversy. President Ma and Premier Wu have persuaded him to stay on. This has granted the Ma administration a reprieve. But the underlying problems remain. One. An increase in health insurance premiums and a change in the way government subsidies are provided. A compromise has been reached between programs offered by different agencies. But the problems underlying the health insurance system remain. Two. The presidential office and the executive yuan have approved a second generation health insurance program to be implemented within two years. But one can only keep one's fingers crossed. Three. Whether Yang Chih-liang will stay on or leave remains unknown. When the current Legislative Yuan session ends, the president and the premier may face another round of resignations.

Over the past ten days, Yang Chih-liang was ostensibly on leave. But he was hardly idle. If anything, he was busier than usual. He had to report to the presidential office twice in three days. Even the KMT party leadership joined in, begging him to stay. He was forced to respond to appeals from the presidential office, the executive yuan and the party urging him to stay. He had to promote a variety of schemes for health insurance premium increases, and report on them to the presidential office. President Ma has yet to approve an increase in health insurance premiums. But he already knows the score. A high-level five-member team will approve a compromise solution. It will draw from the Department of Health's version. It will allow 59% of the public to remain unaffected by the premiums increase. It will meet the standards established by Premier Wu in his "Meat and Potatoes Economics" program. It will allow 75% of the public to remain unaffected. The 16% shortfall will be covered by government subsidies, allowing the proposal to temporarily pass muster.

On the surface, Yang Chih-liang's resignation risked bureaucratic condemnation. He sang a different tune than his boss, both conceptually and even procedurally. Put nicely, taxpayers will foot the bill for the health insurance deficit. Put less nicely, taxpayers will foot the bill for Premier Wu and Yang Chih-liang's "dignity." Substantively, neither Premier Wu nor Yang Chih-liang benefitted. Premier Wu is the chief executive. His subordinates will find it difficult to implement his orders. Yang used his official position to silence his boss. Yang Chih-liang's resignation forced the president to personally mediate between various agencies. Even a program that did not require an amendment to the law, needed presidential intervention to break the impasse, to determine policy, and to convince the director of health to stay on. Yang Chih-liang's resignation rehabilitated the president's image as a man of wisdom and courage. Premier Wu on the other hand, came out looking like a populist panderer who lacked the courage to stand behind his policies.

Do not assume that Yang Chih-liang will benefit because he helped the president. Quite the contrary. As a cabinet member, he must answer to Premier Wu. Yang has agreed to stay on. Will communications between Yang Chih-liang and Premier Wu be tough or tactful? Blunt or diplomatic? Yang Chih-liang said he would "stay on temporarily." He knows he cannot continue defying his superiors, who include the premier and the president. How much trouble will the issue of "face" bring him? All we can do is wait and see. He must exchange time for space. He must pave the way for his retreat on amicable terms.

Yang Chih-liang has agreed to stay on. But before that, he privately confided that "What I want is a system, not a solution." The compromise solution worked out by the presidential office and the executive yuan is not what he wanted. But all he could do was bite the bullet and soldier on. Besides, President Ma agreed to his own prescription: a second generation health insurance system. He does not realize that the program must still undergo legislative review. Whether the legislature will pass it before the current session runs out is uncertain.

Is health insurance medical insurance, or is it a medical benefit? According to the compromise solution, the Republic of China's national health insurance system is the envy of the world. It is virtually a social welfare benefit. Premier Wu understands public sentiment better than anyone. No price increase is ever a good price increase. And so it is with gasoline price increases, electricity price increases, water price increases, and tax increases. Government subsidies may only be increased. They may never be decreased, let alone eliminated. The same is true for pensions. The subsidy to the health insurance system will ostensibly be phased out in two years. The second generation health insurance system will then take over. But whether the second generation health insurance system will be able to take over as planned remains uncertain. If it takes over, but second generation health insurance premiums must also be increased, the public will find it unacceptable. The government is using subsidies to reduce the impact of health insurance premium increases, and to make up the deficit in the health care system. But it has yet to find its way to fiscal solvency.

The cabinet is undergoing a decision making crisis. Health insurance premium increases are merely the tip of the iceberg. Premier Wu has no shortage of political solutions. He has more than enough campaign staffers. But as premier, he must ensure the nation's long term prosperity. He cannot rely exclusively on political tactics. The more sensitive the policy, the greater the need for both boldness and caution. He cannot count on the president to settle every crisis that arises. Yang Chih-liang's resignation exposed hidden concerns, especially for department heads who value professionalism. Does the premier respect professionalism? The answer will determine whether they are willing to stay on and serve their country. There is nothing wrong with Premier Wu's "Meat and Potatoes Economics." But if every issue is decided on the basis of public sentiment, if every deficit is made up by state subsidies, if every problem encountered is fobbed off on those ministries responsible for economics and finance, given the nation's current financial difficulties, the next official hoping to resign will surface, sooner rather than later.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.18
社論-留住楊志良 健保難題還是沒解決








Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't Just Say No: The DPP Must Offer a Vision for the Future

Don't Just Say No: The DPP Must Offer a Vision for the Future
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 17, 2010

Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen has reiterated her commitment to a "Platform for the Decade." Following several victories at the polls, the beleaguered DPP's reaction is now substantially different. Vice President Annette Lu criticized Tsai's platform as "biting off more than one can chew." Elections are held only once every four years, Lu said. To be realistic, the DPP should offer a political platform with a two or four year timeframe.

DPP party elders are not bothering to conceal their belief that "It's all for the sake of elections." Apparently they believe such an attitude will actually help them at the polls. The Democratic Progressive Party has long trumpeted its concern for Taiwan's long term development. Now apparently even a ten year timeframe is too long!

Political competition is never absolute. Between two bad apples, all voters can do is choose the less rotten one. Since last year's three in one elections, the Democratic Progressive Party has won three elections in a row. This can only be explained by the dismal performance of the KMT. But to suggest that the DPP has engaged in soul-searching or that it has offered constructive proposals for the future, will probably be met with raised eyebrows, even from DPP officials.

Take the fiercely debated death penalty issue. Wang Ching-feng refused to implement the death penalty. Cabinet members have adopted different attitudes. Her resignation was no surprise. But consider the underlying structural factors. Voters who support the KMT usually hold more conservative attitudes regarding the death penalty and other social issues. Wang Ching-feng's firm commitment to the abolition of the death penalty was out of step with most KMT supporters. Her resignation was a forgone conclusion.

By contrast, during the "dang wai" era the DPP collaborated with human rights groups. Some Democratic Progressive Party elders were former death-row inmates. The DPP has long trumpeted its intention of "founding a nation on human rights." But when confronted with the Wang Ching-feng incident, all it could do was heap abuse and ridicule upon her. Whether to abolish the death penalty has sparked controversy in many democratic nations. If the DPP were in power today, would it handle the matter more circumspectly?

The "Platform for the Decade" lit a fuse. Last Wednesday the DPP Central Standing Committee discussed "Global Warming and Climate Change: What the Government Should Do regarding Land Restoration." This was supposed to officially launch its Platform for the Decade. But the meeting been barely been convened when DPP officials poured cold water on the proposal. This is truly regrettable. Global climate change will precipitate natural disasters. Taiwan was a victim of the 8/8 Floods. Leaders of the United Nations, the USA, the Chinese Mainland, and the EU are all busy combatting global warming, reducing carbon, and conserving energy. The Democratic Progressive Party however, has no solutions whatsoever. They may say this is not something an opposition party need worry about. But when the DPP was in power, it insisted on scrapping the nuclear energy program. It opposes nuclear power generation. But fossil fuel generating plants may be needed to compensate for the shortfall in nuclear power generation. If the DPP returns to office, does it intend to continue such an energy policy? The world now emphasizes energy efficiency. Does the DPP have a response? Does it have any idea how to deal with such a contingency?

The Republic of China faces another long term problem. Taipei and Beijing are about to sign an ECFA (Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement). The Ma administration is eager to sign, primarily because ASEAN and Beijing have launched a free trade region this year. Exports from the ten ASEAN nations to the Chinese mainland will be tariff free. Similar exports from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland will remain subject to high tariffs. The Ma administration hopes to close the deal on ECFA in order to overcome this problem. The DPP accuses the KMT of looking out only for the interests of big business. But it never offers any alternatives. Even more importantly, what sort of relationship would the DPP establish with Beijing? The Democratic Progressive Party may become the ruling party. It cannot refuse to address this matter merely because it considers it taboo.

DPP officials may say that discussing these issues does not require a Platform for the Decade. An election platform can achieve the same goal. But such an approach would turn every issue into an election issue. Every issue would be evaluated and demagogued for short term political advantage. The DPP would do well to examine the KMT's current plight. The government has flip-flopped on every issue, from taxes for members of the military, the civil service, and public school teachers, to health insurance premium increases. This is a textbook case of being bound hand and foot by election concerns.

And so it is with the DPP. The Republican Party in the United States has enjoyed smooth sailing recently. But it is still willing to talk with Obama about health care reform. It even allowed the Democrats' work bill to pass in the Senate. It knows that a party that only says "No!" will never win the public trust.

The Democratic Progressive Party has also won victory after victory. But its victories have been followed by internecine power struggles. Several electoral districts in the five cities even resorted to character assassination. Perhaps it is unrealistic to talk about the DPP's "Platform for the Decade" given such vicious life or death power struggles. But a new generation of middle-aged Democratic Progressive Party leaders is committed to sustainable development. They really ought to join Tsai Ing-wen and give careful thought to the DPP's plans for Taiwan over the next decade!

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.17
社論-別只會說NO 民進黨應提未來執政願景











Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The New Minister of Justice Should Tell Us Whether He Intends to Abolish the Death Penalty

The New Minister of Justice Should Tell Us Whether He Intends to Abolish the Death Penalty
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 16, 2010

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng has resigned in response to the controversies over the death penalty and the prison break at the Taipei Detention Center. What position will the next Minister of Justice adopt regarding prison policy? Here are some major issues her successor must consider.

First of all, will he or she adopt a different position regarding the abolition of the death penalty? Yesterday President Ma noted that abolishing the death penalty and carrying out executions are two entirely different issues. On the surface, Minister Wang erred because she refused to carry out the death penalty, even though the law has yet to be amended. At a deeper level however, people favor harsh penalties during troubled times. They like the idea of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. They simply do not understand why the death penalty should be abolished. That is the real reason Wang Ching-feng was forced to resign.

Why do so many countries the world over hope to abolish the death penalty? Do they care only about the rights of bad people and not the good? The Republic of China has undergone two changes in ruling parties. Abolishing the death penalty would surely meet with international approval. But the public on Taiwan is convinced the death penalty helps keep their community safe. Will newly appointed ministers reverse the policy of abolishing the death penalty? Or will they explain why the government should abolish the death penalty, and communicate their reasoning to the public?

Will the new ministers immediately sign 44 execution orders? Will they carry out all the executions at one time? Will they carry them out in batches? Or will they exercise their discretionary powers in deciding how to act? President Ma says he intends to govern in accordance with the law. Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng immediately stepped down. In fact however, she failed to make her position clear. She left people with the impression she was reluctant to govern in accordance with the law. Of course she should resign. As we all know, the law authorizes the minister to order executions. If something is a law, it must be carried out. If something is not a law, it must not be carried out. Only then is one governing in accordance with the rule of law. Carrying out something that is not a law, is not governing in accordance with the rule of law.

The Republic of China will incorporate two human rights conventions into its domestic legal system. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that those sentenced to death have the right to request commutation of their sentences. Death row inmaters hae already submitted applications. Carrying out the law at this moment would violate the protocol for the reduction of sentences. If the minister hastily orders these executions, does that still constitute governing in accordance with the rule of law? The Grand Justices have offered two constitutional interpretations of the death penalty. One of them was during the martial law era. The legal reasoning was so backward as to be shameful. In fact, one execution being ruled constitutional does not make all executions constitutional. The Republic of China has already incorporated human rights conventions into its domestic law. Death-row inmates have already petitioned for a constitutional review of the death penalty, in accordance with the Republic of China Constitution in the 21st Century. According to existing regulations, inmates awaiting retrial or who have filed appeals may not be executed. If the minister fails to wait for the constitutional interpretation before carrying out executions, then he has failed to "govern in accordance with the rule of law." How can a minister committed to the abolition of capital punishment, hastily impose the death penalty?

Minister Wang's resignation shows that the Ministry of Justice failed to communicate with the public. It failed to convince the public that the abolition of the death penalty has nothing to do with the preservation of law and order. It also failed to care for and protect crime victims. When the government brings a criminal to justice, that is a form of condemnation. But mere condemnation is not enough. It must also help victims to escape victimhood and get on with their lives. No one has the right to demand that victims forgive their victimizers. But the government can help victims forsake the notion of revenge. This is one way to help victims of crime. Has the Ministry of Justice done enough in this respect?

Some say that if criminals commit crimes, why must the government rehabilitate them? Actually this is open to debate. The government need not compensate the victim on behalf of the victimizer. But it can help the victims to obtain restitution from victimizers. We are not advocating debt collection by means of physical coercion. But prosecuting criminals is a far cry from helping crime victims receive restitution. This should be considered a form of protection for crime victims. Government assistance to victims no longer able to support themselves as a result of crime, must not be considered restitution by those who committed the crime. That would mean valuing money more than the crime victim's distress. The government should also provide psychological counseling to help crime victims survive their ordeal, to put their suffering behind them, and begin life anew. Only then can crime victims forsake the notion of revenge. Most worrisome of all are government officials who would rally support for the government's crime fighting efforts by encouraging victims to hate their victimizers. These officials refuse crime victims resources that would enable them to put their suffering behind them.

Resource allocation has much to do with the penal system as a whole. Yesterday's escapee was a convicted inmate. The person left in the Detention Center was merely a suspect who had yet to be tried. Why was a convict placed in the same facility as a suspect? Why was the detention center being used as a prison? Failing to distinguish between detention and imprisonment is also a violation of of the provisions of the Human Rights Convention. Inadequate resources is no excuse to violate the basic principles of prison administration. This is the harsh reality the new Minister of Justice must confront and address.

If the new Minister of Justice has the courage to face up to his policy problems, if he does what he should, and refrains from doing what he shouldn't, the price we paid as a result of Minister of Justice Wang's resignation may be worth it.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.16
社論-死刑廢不廢 新法務部長應先講清楚










Monday, March 15, 2010

Political Appointees: Reconciling Convictions with Responsibilities

Political Appointees: Reconciling Convictions with Responsibilities
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 15, 2010

In just one short week, two cabinet ministers resigned in the midst of policy turmoil. The two cabinet ministers differ in that Yang Chih-liang stuck to his guns regarding health insurance premium increases. Much of the public has affirmed his professionalism. He also cleared away numerous obstacles in the way of a premium increase. Wang Ching-feng on the other hand, refused to implement the death penalty due to ethical concerns. She stirred up considerable controversy, and debased the level of public discourse. She allowed the administration to become caught on the horns of a dilemma.
Yang Chih-liang Yuang and Wang Ching-feng have resigned over policy disagreements. This is better than officials resigning over personal corruption. This is better than betraying one's convictions in order to cling to one's job. The two have at least left their mark on government. It is difficult to denigrate the way they did their jobs. Wu Deng-yi attempted to dissuade Yang Chih-liang. Considering how two well-respected political appointees have resigned in such a controversial manner, the issue of right and wrong surely merits our attention.

Yang Chih-liang is an academic. Wang Ching-feng is a human rights lawyer. Both have professional images. This is why they were recruited in the first place. The two entered politics. The two should have been able to carry out their jobs in a professional manner. The two should have been able to benefit society and the public. Who knew they would resign over personal beliefs? If we compare the two, Yang Chih-liang's resignation was more rational. He wanted to ensure the fiscal integrity of the health insurance system. Wang Ching-feng's insistence on abolishing the death penalty was merely about clinging to her personal beliefs, while ignoring the social realities and the duties of her position.

Most surprising of all is Wang Ching-feng's value system. She cares deeply about 44 death-row inmates' right to life. She boasts she is willing to "descend into hell" for them. But she has little concern for public anxieties at the other end of the spectrum. She has few if any words of comfort for family members of victims of violent crime. The abolition of the death penalty may be an "international trend." But how can a justice minister turn a blind eye to the concerns of her own compatriots? Wang Ching-has failed to reconcile her personal beliefs with social reality. The bias is so severe, it could be considered obsessive. She has in fact put the cart before the horse.

A political appointee's personal beliefs are one thing. But in order to impose one's personal beliefs on the public, one must first go through legal and institutional channels. Wang Ching-feng has obsessed on the need to abolish the death penalty. But she has made no effort to undergo due process. Not only that, she has constantly resorted to extreme measures when dealing with problems. As a result, she has made matters worse rather than better. For example, she characterized the signing of an execution order as "homicide." She in effect demonized the ministerial system. She left her successor holding the bag, as she cavalierly resigned and departed. She protected her public image of "respect for life," even as she shifted the burden of "homicide" onto the administration and society as a whole. Her posture is extremely dubious.

In her capacity as Minister of Justice, Wang Ching-feng had many opportunities and channels by which she could have persuaded the public to respect human life. She had many ways by which she could have gradually promoted her goal of abolishing the death penalty. But she chose to ignore them. Instead, she resorted to rhetorical shock tactics to promote her beliefs. As a result, she has debased public discourse of the issue, and regressed it to a more conservative extreme. If in the wake of this incident the public on Taiwan is less willing to abolish the death penalty, and if the international community's human rights index for Taiwan declines, Wang Ching-feng will have a hard time escaping blame. Her impetuous resignation can only be described as "cavalier in the extreme."

Besides abolishing the death penalty, Wang Ching-feng taught us another lesson, namely, how should politicians go about realizing their "personal beliefs." Wang Ching-feng resigned over her personal beliefs. She declared that she "did the right thing." But her declaration involves a huge paradox. First of all, "doing the right thing" is not necessarily the same as "doing things the right way." Secondly, Wang Ching-feng may have done the right thing for herself as an individual, but she may not have done the right thing for society as a whole.

German sociologist Max Weber spoke of the distinction between the "ethic of responsibility" and the "ethic of conviction." Irresponsible politicians seek only personal peace of mind and moral purity. They ignore their social responsibility as public figures. They ignore their responsibilities as wielders of public authority. Such "politicians of conviction" often care only about expressing their own their moral sentiments. They are not prepared to debate with others. They are not prepared to convince others. They are heedless of the consequences of their words and deeds. Perhaps these saints should never enter the political arena, because their moral superiority does not allow them to deal wtih other people as equals.

Wang Ching-feng, in emphasizing the right to life, may have been oblivious to her own moral posturing. But if political appointees' only response in the face of public controversy is to retreat into their personal beliefs, that is tantamount to abandoning the public domain. The truly regrettable aspect of Wang Ching-feng's resignation is that to the bitter end, she experienced no "ethic of responsibility" whatsoever.

2010.03.15 03:40 am










Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Talk of Reform if One Cannot Tolerate Appointees with Ideas?

Why Talk of Reform if One Cannot Tolerate Appointees with Ideas?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 12, 2010

Department of Health Director Yang Chi-liang tendered his resignation over the health-care fee increase controversy. After several rounds of dispute, the issue of his resignation remains unsettled. Superficially the dispute is over the cost of health insurance. But if one digs deeper, one discovers it is actually over political appointees' vision and principles. This is a problem that deserves close attention.

A political appointee is someone who must assume responsibility for the failure of his policies. Therefore the most important requirement for a political appointee is a comprehensive policy blueprint and vision. Think of the government as a vast machine. Civil service officials are large or small cogs in this machine. They are important. But they seldom direct the operation of the machine. Political appointees are the engineers whose responsibility it is to oversee the operation of the machine. They design and review the blueprints for the machine. They also direct the operation of the machine.

Of course, sub engineers who oversee individual machines cannot oversee the plant as a whole. From time to time, they must communicate with the chief engineer. They may even need to submit progress reports to the director. The sub engineers and the chief engineer each have their own areas of expertise. They also have their own blind spots. They must communicate with each other frequently. They must coordinate and compromise as they oversee the operations of the plant's machines. If the sub engineer and the chief engineer have major differences over the blueprints and operational strategy for the plant, the sub-engineer is the one who must resign. This describes most peoples' understanding of the government. Cabinet officials are the sub engineers. The premier is the chief engineer. The president is the director.

Allow us to be so bold as to ask the president and the premier how many officials in the current cabinet have any policy concepts, any policy blueprints, any sense of direction, and any vision for the future? Yang Chih-liang is in charge of health-care financing. He vision may be too narrow. He has proposed increasing the price of health care for high-income individuals. Some are critical of his proposal. But Yang is one of the few cabinet officials over the past two years who have any ideas or insights of their own. Most political appointees are good only at crisis management or coping with the media. They good only at obeying the chief engineer or director's commands, and have no opinions of their own. They are good only at self-preservation, at hiding behind bureaucratic smoke and mirrors. They are incapable of offering any views, policies, or reforms of their own. They are unable to lead the public into the future. Our question is simple. How many Republic of China cabinet officials have any policy blueprints of their own? How many of them understand the distinction between a political appointee and a civil service official?

Yang's health-care reforms may not be perfect. UDN editorials have been critical of him. But we prefer controversial political appointees with flawed policy prescriptions to namby-pamby, mealy-mouthed political appointees unwilling to express themselves, unable to offer any policy visions of their own. Society has no shortage of capable individuals with policy prescriptions to offer. Yuan Presidents and the public may attempt to draft them. But secretary-generals may be fearful of public opinion. The legislature may subject them to humiliation. One election follows another, year after year. Everyone knows it is difficult to get anything done in such a political atmosphere. A handful of idealistic individuals may try, only to find themselves being swept away by the raging political currents. Exerting any significant influence under such circumstances is nearly impossible.

Yang Chi-liang's resignation is a mere microcosm of the peverse "elimination of the fittest" in today's political environment. Ma and Wu will of course have little trouble finding a replacement. Health care reform may continue, business as usual. But the resignation has dealt a severe blow to morale in the cabinet. This must not be taken lightly. How can current and future cabinet heads retain their commitment to reform? Lonely policy prescriptions may lack the support of cabinet heads. How can they be sold to a public under the sway of populist sentiment? If future ministry heads reflect upon this sorry record, how committed will they remain to reform? Where exactly is the Ma administration looking for talent?

Over the next two or three years, the Republic of China will face three major challenges. ECFA will soon be signed. Domestic confrontation between the Blue and Green camps will remain serious. Industrial upgrading will remain urgent. The fiscal deficit is worsening. Public and private sector investments are on the wane. By contrast, raising health insurance rates is a relatively simple matter. If such a simple policy issue cannot be handled properly, if political appointees are not permitted to express their own views, how can the public hold out any hope for other more complex policies?

Yang feels that the setbacks to his policies are related to endless annual elections. But we think it has to do with our political ecology and our culture. Leaders with ideals and aspirations will evince no fear of the election culture. They will shield political appointees from such pressures. Reform is possible only when talented people are able to contribute. But the current political environment is just the opposite. Those in the know are concerned. Will Yang's resignation serve as a wake up call to the president and the premier? This may be the key to the Republic of China's future.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.03.12
容不下有見解的政務官 奢談改革









Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Death Penalty: Other Considerations

The Death Penalty: Other Considerations
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 11, 2010

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng invoked the concept of "reason and tolerance" while publicly calling for a moratorium on executions. Minister Wang has long advocated abolishing the death penalty. Following her appointment, the Ministry of Justice has continued to push for the gradual abolition of the death penalty. Current Vice Minister of Justice Huang Shi-ming was recently nominated for the position of Prosecutor General. When questioned by the Legislative Yuan, he said he advocates the abolition of the death penalty, but feels that until the death penalty is abolished, those already sentenced should be executed. This is why Wang Ching-feng felt compelled to express her solemn opinion on the matter.

The gradual abolition of the death penalty has been going on for the past decade. The policy has not been any easier to implement merely because any particular political party was in office. The legal code still includes the death penalty. Over the past several years the courts have sentenced over 40 persons to death. Whether the Minister of Justice should sign death penalty orders has become a issue. Huang Shi-ming, in his capacity as Vice Minister of Justice, has openly expressed views at odds with the Minister's. That is not not unusual. Minister Wang Ching-feng says she understands the Vice Minister's position, and that his views do not diminish her respect for him. Hers was a concrete expression of reason and tolerance. The Minister of Justice is boldly making policy trade-offs. As a result, the death penalty issue has once again come to the fore.

The death penalty raises issues pertaining to democracy and the rule of law. Those who favor the death penalty believe that the public demands it. Those who advocate the abolition of the death penalty and a moratorium on executions, believe the public opposes it. Opponents of the death penalty believe that once the death penalty has been abolished, alternatives will be found. Opinion polls that resort to simplistic dichotomies are unreliable. The death penalty is too final. The risk of mistakes is too high. This is not an issue that the public can decide. Controversy over the death penalty is hardly confined to the Republic of China. Such debates have been going on throughout the world for some time. They continue to buzz around one's ear. During the 21st century however, calls for the abolition of the death penalty have become the global norm. Last year the Republic of China Legislative Yuan passed two human rights bills. Two provisions of the Charter of Universal Human Rights will be incorporated into our legal system. Existing laws and regulations must be amended and fully implemented before December 10, 2011. The abolition of the death penalty has become the Republic of China's urgent homework assignment.

Advocates of the death penalty say the court has ruled that the Ministry of Justice may not refuse to carry out executions. Those with reservations about the death penalty say the authority to carry out the death penalty belongs to the courts. When and how it is implemented should be considered discretionary, comparable to an executive power. The Convention on Human Rights includes two provisions on the death penalty. They make the carrying out of the death penalty on Taiwan seem hasty. One provision states that the condemned has the "right" to request commutation of his sentence. But the Republic of China still lacks a protocol for such cases. To carry out death sentences prior to the enactment of remedial legislation is a violation of the convention and the law. Another provision in the convention states that although the Convention on Human Rights has yet to explicitly repudiate the death penalty, national governments must not obstruct or delay efforts to abolish the death penalty. Although the convention has yet to explicitly repudiate the death penalty, the Ministry of Justice may not use this as an excuse to not grant a moratorium on executions. Minister Wang's legal reasoning may be subtle. But it has a solid legal foundation.

Minister Wang's article mentions the recent killing of a police officer. This case demonstrates the danger of the death penalty. Ten years ago, police officer Lin An-shun died during a gun battle with drug dealers. Two defendants were charged with homicide. One of the defendants was named Li. One of the officers on the scene failed to identify him as one of the shooters. As a result Li was found not guilty of homicide. He was sentenced to five years for illegal possession of firearms. Because the prosecutor failed to appeal, Li was released after serving out the full term of his sentence. The other defendant was named Chan. He was tried fived times. During his last two trials, the court discovered that the man who killed the policeman was not Chen, but Li. Chen was convicted of attempted murder for wounding another police officer, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Put simply, the High Court's rulings have been inconsistent. Lin An-shun died in the line of duty. But his murderer has escaped justice.

The case underscores a problem. The problem is not who should or should not have been sentenced to death. The problem is that during the administration of justice it is difficult to avoid mistakes in identifying those guilty of murder. The reason the suspect in the Lin murder case escaped justice, is that prosecutors and police lacked forensic evidence. They must reduce reliance on eyewitness testimony and even defendants' confessions. They must collect crime scene evidence, including abandoned guns, fingerprints, bullets extracted from the slain police officers, and obtain convictions by means of scientific evidence. Had this been done, this miscarriage of justice would never have happened. The prosecution chose not to appeal. The courts tried the case five times in ten years, on the basis of limited evidence. The result was this strange ruling.

Think about it. If evidence gathering is as sloppy as this when a police officer has been murdered, what can we expect in other homicide cases? The families of the deceased police officers have nowhere to turn to. From this we can see how poorly crime victims are protected. None of these are problems that can be solved by means of the death penalty. The legal system remains error prone. Under these circumstances, the risks the death penalty imposes exceed those permissible under the rule of law.

Minister Wang has the courage to call for an end the death penalty. Her responsible approach deserves affirmation. Prosecutors must improve their forensic evidence gathering techniques. Only then can they avoid weakening their criminal prosecution efforts. They must actively assist crime victims and their families. These are issues the Ministry of Justice must address as they deal with the death penalty. Only this can solve the problem, and eliminate the rationale for the death penalty.