Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s popularity drops further: DPP poll

Majority of respondents condemns Ma about-face on electricity rates

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou’s popularity reached a new low of 25.8 percent after his about-face on electricity rates, a poll commissioned by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party showed Friday.
Late on Tuesday, Ma announced that a hike in the price of electricity originally scheduled for May 15 would be spread over three dates, starting from June 10. While he presented it as a concession to public anger, critics have said the new formula might lead to three waves of price increases for other goods and services.
A total of 68.9 percent of respondents said that Ma’s new approach would not help in countering rising inflation, the DPP said. Only 26.6 percent supported the president on the issue. Consumer groups have pointed out that prices for a range of products and services already rose and will not fall again.
The view that there would be three consecutive waves of inflation was supported by 67.6 percent of poll respondents, but 27.4 percent disagreed.
The government wants to keep the annual inflation rate for 2012 at 2 percent or less, with Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang staking his job on the promise. Thinktanks have forecast a rate of about 1.94 percent.
The DPP protest marches against Ma’s policies scheduled for May 19, the eve of his swearing-in, won the approval of 57.9 percent of those polled, party spokesmen said. The event is likely to attract 100,000 participants who will split into three groups marching through Taipei before ending at a protest rally near the DPP headquarters. On May 20, while Ma is inaugurated for his second term, DPP leaders and supporters will rally at train stations all over the country. Only 38.3 percent of poll respondents opposed the protests, the party said.
The poll was conducted May 2-3 by phone and recorded 1,303 valid responses with a margin of error of 2.7 percent, according to the DPP.
Speaking at a temple in Taipei Friday morning, Ma said that in return for the power rate hike, the government would streamline the major state-run utilities, including the Taiwan Power Corporation. Both management and staff as a whole would face reorganization and an upgrading of the companies’ efficiency, he said.
Ma told the crowd his government would show results for the changes within the shortest possible time.
Taipower and oil company CPC Corporation, Taiwan have come under fire for their business practices, which have been described as inefficient, wasteful and even corrupt. Especially Taipower’s agreements with private suppliers have come under fire. The company pays too generous prices to smaller power supplies which have former Taipower officials as managers, reports said.
The DPP has accused Ma of putting the cart before the horse and has demanded there should be a rate freeze as long as Taipower does not come up with a clear reorganization plan.
The government has cited privatization as an option, but unions are strongly opposed because of fears over job security and even higher prices for consumers.