Ma Ying-jeou won't lodge protest over Economist's 'bumbler' quip

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:48am

Taiwan has no plans to lodge a protest with British magazine The Economist for its article branding the island's president an "ineffectual bumbler", a spokesman for President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday.

The spokesman, Fan Chiang Tai-chi, was rebuffing local media reports that Ma had instructed Taiwan's envoy to Britain to lodge a protest over the characterisation. Fan Chiang said the reports baffled the government.

"There has absolutely never been any such instruction" from the president, Fan Chiang said.

In the weekly magazine's edition published on Saturday, The Economist said Ma had lost his shine, and the public's satisfaction with his administration's performance fell last month to a record low of 13 per cent, citing a survey by the Taipei-based TVBS Poll Centre. The article detailed Taiwan's economic woes, ranging from stagnant salaries to a pension system threatened by bankruptcy, and said the island seemed to agree Ma was "an ineffectual bumbler".

The report triggered a firestorm in Taiwanese media and drew heated debate by lawmakers about whether Ma should rebut the accusations. Local media had earlier reported Ma's government was planning to protest.

Lo Shu-lei, a legislator with the ruling Kuomintang, had mixed reactions to the report. "I feel bad and also sad some foreign media would launch such a criticism against our national leader, but there are some facts in the magazine's report that President Ma must reflect upon" and use to improve his performance, Lo said. "But asking the foreign ministry or our representative office abroad to do that would be highly unnecessary."

Chen Ting-fei, a legislator with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said lodging an objection was not the best use of Ma's time and energy. "It is more important for Ma to improve the local economy," Chen said.

Fan Chiang, however, said that immediately after The Economist had published the article, the Office of the President issued a statement acknowledging the island faced economic and other domestic challenges.

He said the president was dissatisfied with the achievements so far, and the government would step up efforts to overcome the difficulties.

Ma had not asked the foreign ministry or Taiwan's representative office in Britain to lodge any protest, Fan Chiang said. Local media reports stating otherwise were incorrect.

Taiwan's minister of culture, Lung Ying-tai, said: "We have our own development plans in our minds. We don't need to treat a foreign magazine's report as guidance from a superior body."