Ma Ying-jeou, EFCA, MBPP and Taiwan, Wake Up Taiwan!

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Saturday March 28, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The horse still does not know how long his face is, and Ma Ying-jeou continues to live in his own little world. True when he was elected President a year ago, with overblown and outrageous campaign promises he got 58 per cent of the vote. However, once he took office and failed to live up to those promises, reality finally began to set in for many Taiwanese. Ma's popularity has since plummeted to as low as 23 per cent and for the last several months it has remained below 30 per cent. Instead of facing this, Ma fantasizes and postulates that the solution is for people to give him a blank check in drawing up his latest fly-by the-seat-of-your-pants brainstorm an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (EFCA) with China.

Costly pie-in-the-sky brainstorms have been standard fare for anyone who cares to look closely at Ma's management track record. Among the highlights of such from his Taipei Mayor days were the disastrous and costly revamping of the Jiancheng Circle on Nanking West Road, the mishandling of the SARS epidemic (2003) and the city flooding in 2004. The latest brainstorm fiasco was the Maokong Gondola. All of these have unfortunately pointed to the fact that Ma's management style is not Management by Walking Around (MBWA); it remains Management by Posing and Platitudes (MBPP) and saying "trust me."

Trust what? An unexplained skeleton of a different type that highlighted Ma's lack of management by walking around remains of course the suicide of a KMT loyalist jumping off the roof of Ma's City Hall. That a KMT loyalist would choose to jump to her death from Ma's city headquarters is something even his best spin-doctors would not touch and it may have been simply coincidental. The crunch came however from the fact that the dead body decomposed on a city hall balcony for over six months. Apparently Ma's staff also did not believe in management by walking around.

Ma's costly brainstorms have continued on into his presidency and are no doubt the reason for his low ratings. The 6-3-3 campaign promise, we won't even talk about that pipe dream. The 3000 a-day Chinese tourists that were supposed to pump money into Taiwan's economy? Another unfulfilled dream. Even with the recent Amway influx, the numbers are no where near their quotas. Then there has been the panda dream. Tens of millions of US$ have been spent on getting pandas. With the national economy dropping like a stone, Ma's motivation to spend millions on revamping a zoo building and budgeting some five and a half US$ million dollars a year for the next five years to do panda research remains a mystery. How this helps Taiwan's economy is anyone's guess. Even there the projected increased numbers of zoo visitors has never materialized causing the zoo director to lament. We hope he doesn't choose suicide.

This is why the business and academic communities have reacted with such horror when Ma says he wants people to let him ink an EFCA agreement with China without giving any details.

This is not about Ma's questionable loyalty to Taiwan. No one is against doing business with China; the whole world does business with China despite often getting pollution and poison in return. But what sticks in everyone's craw is that Ma in his typical fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style has not even thought of or he refuses to give the details. It is MBPP once again with Ma saying "trust me, while I make something up." No the horse does not know how long his face is. What is more important, however, is whether Taiwanese are finally waking up and facing this. Wake up Taiwan!