Taiwan has benefited from Ma Ying-jeou’s leadership

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 January, 2016, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 January, 2016, 5:27pm

Professor Jonathan Sullivan’s article (“Livelihood issues set the tone for Taiwan’s presidential election”, December 23) falls short of presenting a balanced and thorough picture of the Taiwan government’s overall efforts.

Since taking office in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou has been following the principle of “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people”. For example, he has improved cross-strait relations and institutionalised cross-strait negotiations; opened up tourism in Taiwan for mainland tourists that brought significant economic benefits; reached out to a total of 161 countries or territories that grant Republic of China passport holders visa waiver or landing-visa treatment; concluded fisheries agreements with Japan and the Philippines, as well as economic cooperation agreements with New Zealand and Singapore; and promoted judicial reform.

Though some policies under the Ma administration did not turn out as expected, the substantial results made for the benefit of the people have been applauded widely by the Taiwanese. Mr Sullivan’s description of President Ma as “a self-styled Confucian elite” who “adopts a personal style that combines aloofness with indecision and authoritarian decision-making” is a criticism contrary to reality.

A poll by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council publicised on November 13 showed that more than 60 per cent of Taiwanese people approved of the meeting between President Ma and mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ). It promoted the long-term development of peaceful cross-strait relations.

The impact of the global quantitative easing policy, rising flight of capital, excessive hot money inflows to Asia, and a Taiwanese traditional concept of “where there is soil, there is wealth” have triggered a sizzling property market. There is no evidence that Taiwan’s real estate prices are related to mainland Chinese capital. In Taiwan as in most countries around the world, high housing prices in metropolitan areas (especially the area surrounding Taipei) are obvious. However, the ratio of home prices to disposable income in cities other than Taipei is around four to eight times, which is still reasonable. Thus, expensive housing is not a widespread problem.

Moreover, by offering housing subsidies amounting to US$1.4 billion, Ma’s government aided 670,000 households.

The president is also supportive of national defence. During his term, arms purchased from the US amounted to over US$20 billion, more than the US$16.2 billion under Lee Teng-hui and the US$8.4 billion under Chen Shui-bian. In addition, he has directed efforts on an indigenous submarine programme.

Ines Huei-ying Chang, deputy director, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office