SEVEN-YEAR ITCH:Advocacy groups panned Ma’s time in office, saying his policies have not helped most Taiwanese, with wages falling and national debt rising
By Lii Wen / Staff reporter
A man looks at a large cardboard cutout of President Ma Ying-jeou plastered with signs detailing his administration’s failed policies, in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) presidency has been characterized by stagnant wages and deteriorating working conditions, several human rights and labor advocacy groups said yesterday, as the nation marked the seventh anniversary of Ma’s taking office.
Referring to Ma’s recent remarks that he had “no problem sleeping at night,” the groups urged the president to “wake up” and empathize with the public’s hardships.
Led by the Taiwan Labour Front, the groups plastered signs labeled with what they described as failed government policies onto a large cardboard cutout of Ma, who is depicted jogging in track shorts.
The Ma administration’s misguided economic policies, designed to cater to the needs of wealthy business groups, have failed to bring growth as promised, but instead they have exacerbated economic inequality, the groups said.
The past seven years were also marked by a stark rise in government debt, huge tax reductions for the wealthy, increasing economic reliance on China and protests against land seizures, they added.
Actual earnings for Taiwanese workers have dropped to wage levels of 16 years ago, with employees who earn less than NT$40,000 a month comprising about 69 percent of all salaried employees — or nearly 6 million people, Taiwan Labour Front secretary-general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said.
The Ma administration has repeatedly attempted to prevent an increase in the minimum wage, he added, before describing the recent “four laws for pay raises” as “cheap tricks” to swindle the public.
Alliance for Fair Tax Reform spokesman Hung Ching-shu (洪敬舒) said that the tax reductions introduced by the Ma administration have led to a decrease in Taiwan’s tax burden from 13.4 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2013, while debt figures have skyrocketed.
Moreover, the tax deductions have failed to attract foreign capital and have only benefited speculative investments in the real-estate market and driven up housing prices, Hung said.
He added that government initiatives, such as the luxury tax and capital gains tax, lack substance.
Property tax reform might be the only way that the Ma administration can “redeem itself” during its last year in government, Housing Movement spokesperson Peng Yang-kai (彭揚凱) said.
Peng accused the government of inaction in curbing soaring housing prices, adding that government policies on increasing public housing have not been realized.
The past seven years saw the constant threat of “economic marginalization,” in which the government exaggerates the importance of pursuing free-trade agreements with China, Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said.
The Ma administration has sacrificed Taiwan’s economic and political sovereignty through “devil’s deals” with China, while Taiwanese are left to endure the exploitative actions of cross-strait business conglomerates, Lai said.