Tsai demands Ma switch premiers to save Taiwan economy

Ma chided for `infantile` refusal to attend citizen`s council

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen demanded Saturday that President Ma Ying-jeou change premiers and declared that ``unless the Cabinet is changed, there will be no hope for the economy.``

The DPP chairwoman issued the demand in an opening address to the ``Taiwan Citizen Conference on National Affairs`` which began Saturday morning at the Howard International House in Taipei City.

In addition to Tsai, TSU Chairman Huang Kun-hui, former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, former premier Su Tseng-chang, former Securities and Finance Commission chairman Wu Rong-i, former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen and over 300 other DPP and TSU politicians, former DPP government officials, leaders of civic reform groups, labor unions and other social movement organizations.

In opening remarks, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology Research Fellow Chu Hai-yuan stated that ``a national affairs conference should be led by the government but this conference is led by citizens because the current leaders have no intention to listen the voices of the people and form a consensus to resolve the current crisis.``

In her address, Tsai stated that the meeting was being held ``because everyone is worried about Taiwan`s economy and Taiwan`s future and anxious about whether this government has the capability to face this economic crisis.``

``We hope that the president can recall his promise to bring well-being to the people and hope that the government can listen to the voices of the public and correct their numerous failures and mistakes in administrative policy,`` the DPP chairman stated.

Tsai noted that when the previous DPP government left office, ``we handled over an economy that had 6.25 percent growth in the first quarter and 4.56 percent in the second quarter but in only nine months you have allowed our export trade, industrial production and wage growth rates hit new historical lows while the deficit in foreign portfolio investment, the number of households in poverty and the number of unemployed persons to reach new highs.``

Tsai said that the KMT government maintained that the reason was the international financial crisis,`` but we want to tell the government that this is a crisis of governance and that this administrative team has made misjudgement after misjudgement and repeatedly proposed mistaken policies.``

Tsai, a former vice premier, related that Premier Liu Chao-shiuan had promised to the people last fall that the fourth quarter would see an upturn in the economy, ``but the result was that the economic growth rate in the fourth quarter was negative 8.36 percent.``

``After this, should not the premier take the initiative to apologize to the people and not need to be boycotted by opposition before doing so?`` she asked.

``Therefore, today I officially demand in my status as opposition party chairwoman that President Ma cashier and immediately reorganize the Cabinet,`` Tsai declared.

Recalling that Ma had once stated, referring to ex-president Chen Shui-bian, that ``if the president is not changed, there will be no hope for the economy,`` Tsai stated that ``now if the Cabinet is not changed, there will be no hope for the economy.```

Tsai stated that the DPP believed Taiwan should accelerate efforts to ``thoroughly change the character of our national economy`` based on a ``long-term and lasting program and not just pay attention to short term effects like the Ma government.``

``Our focus should be placed on living people and not on numbers,`` said the DPP chairwoman, who called for efforts to ``resolve the unemployment problem and to ease the difficulties and suffering of the unemployed and not beautify the unemployment rate,`` Tsai said.

Moreover, Tsai stated that unlike the Ma government, ``we will absolutely not excessively depend on China`` and questioned whether Taiwan`s economy had really been improved by the cross-strait ``liberalization`` policy carried out by the KMT government.

``Now the Ma government is planning behind closed doors to sign a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) that will move Taiwan toward economic unification with China without any risk evaluation, monitoring from the people or a social consensus,`` warned Tsai, a former Mainland Affairs Council minister.

TSU Chairman Huang Kun-hui warned that the fundamental reasons for Taiwan`s current economic crisis was the ``hollowing out of industry`` and excessive investment and trade dependence on the China market and warned that ``the result of industrial hollowing has led to high rates of unemployment and the progressive integration into the Chinese economy has led to convergence between wage levels in both areas.``

Huang expressed concern over the ``worsening of the tilt toward China`` under the Ma government under the influence of the myth that ``depending on China can save the Taiwan economy`` with the regulation of direct cross-strait transportation links and other liberalizations.

Huang stated that reductions in customs levies and mutual liberalizations could be negotiated under the framework of the World Trade Organization in which both the People`s Republic of China and Taiwan were members and declared that the TSU was ``absolutely opposed`` to the negotiation and signing of the proposed CECA with Beijing.

Although the organizers invited President Ma Ying-jeou, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan and all Cabinet ministers to attend the meeting, a presidential spokesman stated Friday that Ma would not attend because of the boycott of Liu`s administrative report by DPP legislators.

DPP Legislative Caucus Convenor Ker Chien-ming said President Ma`s decision not to attend was ``infantile.``

Many civic speakers at the conference also expressed dissatisfaction with Ma`s decision.

Instead, Council of Labor Affairs Wang Ju-hsuan attended the morning session on the crisis of employment and Finance Minister Liu Shu-teh attended the afternoon session on fiscal discipline and tax equity.

Upon leaving the conference, CLA Chairman Wang Ju-hsuan told The Taiwan News that she was pleased to ``listen to the voices of the people,`` but added that ``most of the proposals raised have been discussed internally already.``