|President Ma's inauguration, May 20, 2008|
With the much-vaunted Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) evidently failing to deliver on the government’s promise to improve the economy, and with inflationary concerns on the rise, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has decided to reduce costs. This makes sense, but there is a problem: These cuts are targeting the key symbols of nationhood.
Nearly four years into Ma’s first term and less than a month before he embarks on his second, the state of Taiwan’s economy is rather underwhelming — especially for an administration that never misses an opportunity to accuse its predecessor of mishandling that very sector. The TAIEX is tumbling, salaries are stagnant, exports (even to China) are down and GDP growth has been sliced so often it might as well be salami.
The only thing that has gone up during that period is the cost of living, a trend that is about to be exacerbated by major hikes in energy prices.
As a responsible government that cares for the welfare of its people, the Ma administration has announced that the May 20 presidential inauguration ceremonies will cost no more than NT$6 million (US$200,000), 85 percent less than the cost of the inauguration in 2008 and 91 percent less than former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) inauguration in 2004. Among other things, a fireworks display and a party will be canceled, leaving pretty much just a banquet.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.