President Ma Ying-jeou has just concluded his first state visit to Africa, an endeavor which not only helped consolidate Taiwan's friendship with its African allies but also allowed people in Taiwan to understand the positive meaning of foreign aid.
Regrettably, opposition politicians have described Ma's trip as having little value. They have also been critical of Ma's decision to provide financial aid to the country's allies at a time when increasing consumer prices in Taiwan are drawing widespread complaints.
In fact, relations between countries are built upon mutual interests, cooperation and trade-offs. Taiwan needs the diplomatic recognition of other countries to support its sovereign status and the endorsement of others for its bid to take part in international organizations.
Foreign relations are a national asset that the government needs to work hard to maintain, no matter which party is in power.
If Taiwan wants to participate in the international community, it must show its ability to contribute positively to the rest of the world. At present, aid to foreign countries accounts for only 0.1 percent of Taiwan's gross domestic product, relatively low compared with the 0.28 percent of GDP averaged by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations.
Taiwan's international participation is related to the country's survival and development and the well-being of its people. As long as there is a proper screening and supervisory mechanism, aid money that ought to be spent should be spent.
Just look at the scene of Burkinabe children studying under the solar-powered LED lamps donated by Taiwan. If Taiwan can provide some light and warmth to the world through such a program, there is nothing bad about it. (Editorial abstract -- April 18, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)