DPP: Government’s economic policies should prioritize workers and unemployment reduction

On November 24th the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics (DGBAS) of Executive Yuan announced that in October the unemployment rate rose to 4.37%. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsan stated that this figure shows that unemployment will continue to rise in the months of November and December and may even reach or exceed 5%. Whether it is due to the incompetence of the Ma administration’s past six months of governance or the influence of global factors, it is a fact that the unemployment rate has been steadily rising. However, the direction of Ma administration’s policies has been to provide support to banks which would, in turn, support businesses, and business would then support laborers and increase employment.

From this it can be clearly seen that the underlying philosophy of Ma administration’s economic policies has the ordering of priorities all wrong. The DPP believes that what is needed currently is a focus on creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

Cheng pointed out that if an economic policy could no provide jobs and put money in people’s pockets, than this policy is a failure. The Ma administration will issue NT$3,600 (about US$110) consumer vouchers, but what people would rather want is a NT$36,000 (US$1,090)-a-month job. Therefore, we believe that the government needs to adjust its policy approach and focus mainly on increasing employment. What matters is increasing employment opportunities across industries and enabling citizens of different backgrounds to find work.

Cheng went on to state that when the DPP was in power, it had to deal with the SARS epidemic and the global economic effects of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. At that time the stock market index had fallen to 3,000 and unemployment had risen, but because the government pushed its “Diverse Employment Plan,” middle- senior-aged laborers who lost their jobs were able to return to the workforce. The unemployment problem was fundamentally addressed by creating short-term and temporary work opportunities. Afterwards, the economy rebounded and the DPP administration reduced the unemployment rate to below 4%. In comparison, the Ma administration has not even been in power for half a year and the unemployment rate is already on track to exceed 5%. This trend creates a great deal of insecurity for citizens and causes society to be pessimistic towards the future of Taiwan’s economy and employment opportunities. The DPP believes that the government needs to reverse its priorities and focus on assisting workers and reducing unemployment first.

With regard to the consumer voucher law passed by the Legislature, the DPP feels that its content as it stands is extremely simplistic. It does not specify how the vouchers will be distributed, the source of their funding, or how they will be implemented. The same is true for the stimulus plan recently passed—no timetable or budget was specified. The entire law was enacted using extraordinary legislative procedures. It is impossible to determine whether the consumer voucher plan is to be applied at the Ma administration’s whims, or whether it is a one-time only measure to stimulate domestic consumption. Moreover, the stimulus plan law is glaringly lacking in details as to be virtually a blank check.

The DPP believes that these two laws should specify clearly the methods and procedures taken in order for these to be responsible laws. Otherwise, providing a legal cover for these vague plans is tantamount to providing the executive branch with a blank check. This would give rise to corruption and create an insurmountable debt burden upon the national coffers in the future. An effective supervisory mechanism does not exist. The DPP will strictly uphold its duty in the legislature and will demand that the relevant Cabinet ministries give a full accounting of the specifics of the plan so that citizens will know what the government is doing with their tax money.