By Dr. William Fang, Special to The China Post
Two major events dominated the local evening newspaper on Sept. 16: The impact of the reported bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers on the Taiwan stock market and the aftermath of Typhoon Sinlaku. The presidential spokesman indicated that President Ma Ying-jeou fully understood the serious effect of the American financial storm on Taiwan’s economy, but called for public calm and demanded that the Executive Yuan do something to stabilize the domestic situation. In addition, it was reported that the president had been scheduled to inspect the damage caused by Typhoon Sinlaku on Sept. 17.
When asked whether the government would take responsibility for the casualties caused by the collapsed Houfeng Bridge on the Dajia River, Mao Chih-kuo, minister of transportation, offered no response. Records show that the Houfeng Bridge has been condemned for two years.
Both the financial crisis marked by a sharp stock market plunge and natural disasters are not new to the Ma administration, even though it has been inaugurated for a little more than three months. But the way the government has dealt with them is bitterly disappointing to the public. It is estimated that since President Ma took office on May 20 about 9 trillion dollars have evaporated from the stock market. Of course, the worldwide worsening economic crisis has played a major role in this disaster. However, the misbehavior, including various misstatements of responsible officials from Ma down, should also significantly account for the blame. For one thing, during the past three agonizing months when the stock market kept plunging, the Cabinet under Premier Liu Chao-shiuan did take numerous steps to salvage it. But the problem was that all the measures offered so far seemed to be “too little and too late.” One of the sensible explanations one can make for such a phenomenon is that most of the top officials, scholars and experts in the Ma administration are “birds of one feather,” who are decent, prudent, rule-observing, sensitive to criticism and unwilling to take responsibility for failure. The result is that they seldom take the initiative by seeing things ahead of time, rather they tend to follow the developments of events to make sure the steps they are taking are justified with the least risk and fault, but very often their policies are not timely and effective.
This is exactly what people are seeing President Ma and other high officials doing every day: Calling for calm and trust in the government, hurrying to disastrous areas to inspect damage while doing little that can effectively solve the present problems and forestall future ones. There is no exaggeration to say the Ma administration is in a serious crisis of confidence. Ma is not being perceived as a capable and farsighted leader who stands high and tall as he should, but as being pushed around by rapidly developing events without knowing how and where to find solutions to problems.