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United Daily News: President's policy alienates supporters

2012/05/03 11:24:07

The government's recent decision-making process regarding electricity rate hikes has been terrible, evidenced by its many flip-flops and general appearance of disorganization.

Just when the government had announced that a one-time increase in electricity rates would take effect May 15 following months of ruckus, the plan was suddenly overturned by some of the members of a nucleus "five-man panel." President Ma Ying-jeou then held a news conference the following day to announce that the rates would be raised in three stages starting June 10.

During his first announcement of the hikes, Ma said he had his "helmet" ready to take attacks from all sides. In his more recent announcement, however, Ma adopted a different tone, saying that the government "will definitely pay attention to the trends in public opinion" and "will not face the people with arrogance."

In doing so, Ma was slapping himself in the face, seemingly admitting that his administration "was facing the people with arrogance" just the day before.

However, consumer prices had already been driven up in anticipation of the electricity rate hikes, and the damage was already done to the relationship between the government and the public. The 180-degree reversal served only to highlight the differences within the "five-man panel" and to make die-hard supporters of the government's policy feel that they had been hoodwinked.

The mindset of trying to please everyone all the time that underlies Ma's decision-making model is a long-time problem.

Another example is the government's decision to increase the monthly pension for elderly farmers during the run-up to the Jan. 14 presidential election. The Ma administration originally stuck to a minuscule increase of NT$316 based on a fixed formula, but later raised the increase to NT$1,000.

Incapable of convincing its opponents or responding to its supporters, the government is alienating both its friends and followers. (Editorial abstract -- May 3, 2012)

(By Y.F. Low)