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President Ma's New Year's Day Celebratory Message

New Year's Day Celebratory Message

Ma Ying-jeou


Republic of China

January 1, 2009


Vice President Siew; Chairman Wu; Presidents of the Five Yuans; Cabinet Ministers; Distinguished Guests; My Fellow Countrymen:

Happy New Year!

Today we celebrate the anniversary of our nation's founding and welcome the beginning of a new year--the ninety-eighth year of the Republic of China. The year 2008 witnessed many developments of special historic significance for Taiwan. In terms of democratic development, cross-strait relations, and international participation, our nation reached important historic milestones. At the same time, we have been hit by one of the most serious economic challenges witnessed in decades. The severity of this global financial crisis has only hardened our resolve to face this challenge head on and not let down our guard for even a moment.

In the coming year, though there will be many economic trials and tribulations we have no need to fear. Instead, we will transform this challenge into a golden opportunity to refortify Taiwan's economic strength. The storms that originated from abroad will bolster our conviction and perseverance, while the pressures of globalization will give Taiwan new impetus to forge ahead with greater wisdom and courage.

Three milestones

Taiwan entered a new and historic era of political development in 2008. We passed a democratic milestone this year with the election of the KMT party back to power, which signified the second peaceful transfer of political power between different political parties. Without a doubt Taiwan is advancing into a period marked by more stable democracy and better governance. In the past six months, the Control Yuan has been reinvested its full powers and is now operating normally, therefore the five-branches of the government under the Constitution are once again functioning as designed by our founding fathers. We have triumphed over adversity by cleaning up political corruption and restoring good governance to our nation.

In the past year, cross-strait relations also underwent a historic transition. Upon coming into office my administration not only swiftly reactivated the mechanism for institutionalized talks between Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, but we also entered an era of comprehensive, normalized economic relations. The Second Chiang-Chen Talks of November 2008 were a great success, in which it helped realize our longstanding hopes for the "Three Links"--direct air, sea, and postal links.

Furthermore, in 2008, Taiwan's international standing and image saw marked improvements. Cross-strait rapprochement has transformed the Taiwan Strait from a dangerous flashpoint to a stabilizing force to the benefit of our Asian neighbors and allies who have a vested interest in maintaining the peaceful development of East Asia. In the eyes of our important allies, Taiwan has become a peacemaker and responsible stakeholder in the region. Last year, prior to the inauguration day on May 20, then-Vice President-elect Vincent Siew attended the Boao Forum on the mainland. In November of this past year, Mr. Lien Chan served as Taiwan's representative to the Economic Leaders' Meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. These unprecedented events in cross-strait relations captured the attention and praise of the people across the Asia-Pacific region.

Revitalizing the economy

Although my administration has already achieved incredible breakthroughs since coming into office, we will continue to forge ahead. The global financial turmoil triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis has engulfed the entire world. Its rapid pace, huge impact and far-reaching effects and consequences have surpassed all estimation and anticipation.

First, my government has boldly undertaken measures to bolster our financial institutions so that our banks are more resilient against financial shocks and risks. In addition to reducing the benchmark interest rate, in early October of last year, we were the first Asian nation to provide a blanket guarantee for all domestic bank deposits, a move that effectively stabilized the financial situation. To halt the rapid deterioration of the economic crisis, the government implemented an all-in-one economic stimulus package to expand investment in public infrastructure, stimulate domestic consumption, boost employment, and help internationally competitive industries to weather the crisis.

However, despite these efforts the economic situation remains grim. We have received many petitions from the people voicing their fears of losing their livelihoods. I stand here today assuring our nation that the government has heard their calls and will pledge to do our utmost to safeguard their interests. As human capital is the greatest asset of a corporation, I am calling on all enterprises in Taiwan to avoid laying off their employees as much as possible, instead work together to try to come to some mutual accommodation in order to weather through this difficult period.

The government also plans to actively combat rising unemployment. In addition to a measure to create 120,000 jobs, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan has announced a plan to Re-energize the Job Market in his December 30 press conference, which will assist 168,000 people currently on mandatory unpaid leave. Under this scheme, these employees are eligible for a NT$10,000 subsidy to be used for job training courses over a six-month period. Meanwhile, the "i-Taiwan 12 Projects" are expected to create 220,000 jobs over four years. Furthermore, we are spending NT$8.5 billion on the New Zheng He Plan to stimulate exports to emerging markets, which we expect to generate NT$540 billion in orders that will safeguard up to 200,000 jobs.

The government is also pushing forth employment plans addressing the short, medium, and long term. In addition to assisting businesses in acquiring financing, we have also shared the concerns of workers. As such, we have not only helped enterprises improve their employment environment but have also offered those unemployed the appropriate training and assistance needed to find new job opportunities. Relevant government ministries and agencies should pay special attention to the economic hardships faced by those unemployed from low-income families, and provide timely aid to help them through this difficult period.

My fellow countrymen, for years, Taiwan has relied heavily on foreign trade, which has made us especially vulnerable to any global economic upheaval. However, our overall economic structure is sound. Comparatively speaking, Taiwan has ample foreign exchange reserves, low household debt and business liabilities, highly resilient enterprises, and banks with a low proportion of bad assets. These factors allow us to bear external shocks and risks better than many other Asian countries. Therefore, I firmly believe that by remaining steadfast to our current course, and by staying true to the spirit of diligence, resolve, and perseverance; by having the government and the private sector operate in close cooperation; and by ensuring that management and labor work together, then there can be no doubt that we will triumph over our present predicament.

Achieving victory through bold reform

However, the global economic slowdown is not the greatest challenge we face. We must realize that, following this financial crisis, the world will enter a period of rapid economic restructuring that will cleave a dividing line between those nations more competitive than those that are not. Some countries will emerge as winners in this new race toward a knowledge-based economy and a "green" industrial revolution. Nations that are unable to effectively re-engineer their economic structure may enter an extended period of stagnation. Therefore, when the global economy rebounds and the economic race begins anew, will Taiwan be one of those ahead of the game?

The stormier the seas through which we sail, the more steadfast we must strive towards our goals. There is no doubt that we face a great challenge ahead, therefore the government must work even harder to properly allocate public resources, and improve the nation's economic structure. This administration has thus formulated and begun to implement such economic plans as the "i-Taiwan 12 Projects" and a stimulus package to revitalize the economy. These measures are not only designed for short-term relief, they in fact will boost Taiwan's long-term international competitiveness and create new core economic values.

Three economic development goals

In the future, the government will strive to reach three economic goals: transform Taiwan into a global innovation center; turn Taiwan into an epicenter for commerce and trade in the Asia-Pacific region; and make Taiwan into the operating headquarters for firms run by Taiwanese businessmen. The interlinking strategy for these three goals is the cultivation of talented individuals. Our homeland is small and densely populated, in which we have few natural resources. Therefore, human capital is our greatest asset. It will be our people that will determine the competitiveness of our nation in this era of knowledge-based economy. The government will inject more resources into education, science and technology, and culture, so as to nurture an environment where our present and future generations will be more competitive globally. We will also adjust the amount of resources allocated for higher education so as to better reflect long-term changes to our nation's demographic composition. My government envisions to further open up Taiwan's free, and pluralistic society to the world; by so doing, we can better attract talented foreigners to Taiwan.

In the face of a global recession, we must turn external pressures into the driving force for bold internal reform, and aim to transform Taiwan's economic infrastructure, strengthen its political systems and elevate our nation's standard of living so that our citizens can enjoy a higher quality of life.

Land conservation, government restructuring, and civil service reform

Starting this year, the government will launch a comprehensive land conservation plan to protect mountainous areas, improve river management, and restore Taiwan's coastlines. The comprehensive management of four major river systems--the Danshui River, Dajia River, Zhuoshui River, and Gaoping River--must be carried out promptly and efficiently, with all scheduled projects completed on time, so as to effectively address the challenges of water pollution as well as flooding during typhoon season.

In regards to these goals, we also need to streamline the government so as to enhance its efficiency, flexibility and national competitiveness. Such plans have been in the works for the past two decades, but have yet to be implemented. This year, we must resolve to remove all obstacles and push to amend the Organic Act of the Executive Yuan. This will allow for suitable adjustments to be made to the function and size of the various ministries and agencies under the Executive Yuan. I am convinced that such a restructuring will enhance the quality and delivery of government services to the people, in turn improving the government's ability to plan, implement and enforce policies. This will facilitate the completion of all major national development projects.

In regards to government restructuring, certainly reforming the civil service system is one of our top priorities. To have a capable government at the helm steering the nation through challenges and hardships, we need a team of outstanding civil servants. The Examination Yuan plans to establish a "national civil service college," which will help concentrate all relevant resources into one place. The Executive Yuan will also expedite reforms in the civil service system by bringing the recruitment, training, reward and punishment, and performance evaluation of civil servants more in line with current trends.

In addition, as Taiwan has twice undergone a transfer of power between political parties, the time is now right to establish a bureaucratic system that adheres to administrative neutrality. In the future, the Examination Yuan will first build a legal framework for administrative neutrality, and then cultivate a culture of administrative neutrality, so that party politics and the civil service system will complement each other and bring about positive developments.

Sovereignty and dignity: watchwords for cross-strait relations

The governing and opposition parties should work together to safeguard peace across the Taiwan Strait and promote the positive development of cross-strait relations. Partly due to the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration's "mini-three-links" and "holiday charter flights" policies, we have smoothly commenced direct air, sea, and postal services between Taiwan and mainland China. With the launch of the Three Links, bilateral economic relations have become closer, and private exchanges have expanded.

This presents Taiwan with both opportunities and challenges. While we should seize this opportunity to enhance Taiwan's economic standing in the world, but as economic relations between Taiwan and the mainland become increasingly interdependent, we must also preserve the sovereignty and dignity of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Correspondingly, we should also play to our strengths on the political, social and cultural fronts in order to exert a positive influence on the long-term development of cross-strait relations.

However, we must recognize that Taiwan's economic development cannot solely depend on cross-strait trade and investment. While we expand our business opportunities in mainland and overseas markets, we must also rely on our own strengths by boosting domestic demand. In so doing we will not only invigorate the economy and buttress our economic structure, but also pave the foundation to better capture the opportunities from a global economic recovery. As such, the government will soon introduce a special budget for public infrastructure spending and propose a series of construction projects in transportation, conservation, agriculture, and urban renewal that will not only improve our quality of life but also Taiwan's business environment.

Joining to rejuvenate the economy

My fellow countrymen, in facing severe global economic challenges, we must stand together. The ruling, the opposition parties and all citizens, regardless of their political color, must join together to rejuvenate our economy. The government needs to be accountable to as well as encouraged by the people. We will not ignore the voices of the opposition or those of our citizens. Rather, we will continue--in a spirit of openness--to actively communicate with the opposition and the private sector on national development goals and policies, so that we can form a basic consensus that will give us the strength to promote reform, overcome the present economic crisis, and lead Taiwan forward.

The people of Taiwan are tightening their belts during this economic slowdown, and I feel deeply concerned about the workers who have lost their jobs, the families struggling to get by, and the companies that are just trying to survive through the Chinese Lunar New Year.

At this point, I would like to address all civil servants. First, I want to thank you for your hard work in the past year, but also remind you that your livelihoods are somewhat more protected than those of others, and that you are less affected by economic downturns. Now, more than ever, you need to show empathy and compassion to your fellow countrymen, take the initiative, leave your offices, and do what you can to understand and resolve the problems of your fellow citizens. Saying that you are administering the country according to the law is no excuse for relinquishing your responsibility to actively serve the people. While acting within the bounds of the law, civil servants should be doing everything they can to serve the interests of their countrymen. If existing procedures are too cumbersome to meet urgent needs, break through the mold! The civil bureaucracy must neither remain stuck in the ruts of convention, nor cling to outdated practices. All civil servants, whether at the central or local levels, should show a spirit of compassion, like the Goddess of Mercy, thinking always of what we can do to help our fellow countrymen. Remember, help offered too late is no help at all.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, my fellow countrymen, for your encouragement and support of our administrative team over the past year. I hope that, in 2009, you will continue to give us constructive criticism and guidance.

In closing, I want to wish you all good health. May your families know happiness and be filled with peace, and may you realize your hopes and dreams in this New Year.

Thank you.

【Source: Office of the President】