By Dr. William Fang, Special to The China Post
To the stunning surprise of the world, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a US$700 billion bailout plan on Sept. 30 to salvage the financial sector, sending U.S. stocks to their biggest decline in 20 years, which in turn spelled a dark day for the global stock markets. Naturally, the Taiwan stock market was also affected by the American financial storm with a final loss of 210.3 points, to 5,600 points.
No one should put too much blame on the Ma Ying-jeou administration for the latest tumbling of the stock market in Taiwan as almost all countries are feeling the impact of the collapse of the American market.
What deeply worries the public is how the Liu Chao-shiuan Cabinet dealt with the crisis. President Ma came out at the first possible moment to ask the public to remain calm and have confidence in the government because he believed the financial situation in Taiwan is basically sound. “We can do it in weathering the crisis,” Ma reassured the people. Even Premier Wen Chiabao of Beijing, traveling in New York, stressed that the key was to bolster courage and confidence, which “is more important than gold and currency.” However, during an interpellation at the Legislative Yuan, Premier Liu pointed out “honestly” that there was “no cure-all” to save the stock market. “The only thing we can do is to control the damage.”
No one suggests that officials should lie, but what the general public needs most at this moment of a deep financial crisis is “confidence” and “courage.” And certainly the candid and blunt remarks of Liu, the nation’s highest executive official, did not have such an effect.
What is even more incredible was the way other relevant officials handled the aftermath.
First, according to news reports, officials at the Taipei representative’s office in Washington D.C. were surprised by large number of Republican House members who did not support the bi-partisan proposal. Later, they did not relay the news about the final vote on the bailout package in the U.S. House of Representatives to Taipei at the earliest possible moment. The Ma government heard the news several hours later only when the secretary-general of the Executive Yuan happened to turn on the TV early in the morning because he was so worried about the financial crisis that he could not sleep and watched the CNN newscast. All this indicated one thing, that is, the nuts and bolts of the machine of the Ma government have become so loose that it needs a complete overhaul. Remember, a tourist bus, reportedly an illegally oversized vehicle, overturned during Typhoon Jangmi, but fortunately did not cause serious casualties, otherwise, back luck would strike some high government officials again.
It has been reported that the Liu Cabinet is already “on probation” due to its extremely low popularity. Any more serious accidents and gaffes resulting from negligence on the part of government officials will probably become the last straw that will crush the Liu Cabinet, whether President Ma continues to support it or not.