When the Legislative Yuan's first session of 2002 came to a close earlier this summer, the island's lawmakers appeared to have put an unusually productive session under their belts. Indeed, the volume of laws passed, 154, far exceeded the numbers racked up in the initial sessions of the three previous years - totals of 41, 9, and 80 respectively. A number of legislators proudly made note of the achievement.
But quantity is not the same as quality, and evaluating the legislature's performance requires a look at the nature of the laws passed. More than half were in fact amendments made to bring legislation in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Law. Many others involved necessary social welfare issues, but relatively few dealt with pressing economic matters. Not nearly enough was done to get Taiwan's economic engine back to running at full speed, especially when it comes to implementing the consensus points reached by last year's Economic Development Advisory Council convened by President Chen Shui-bian. Only 16 of the 38 EDAC-related bills presented in this session were approved, and many of the total of 23 bills that remain unpassed are needed measures in the effort to revitalize the economy. (See page 14 for a rundown on the status of all 59 EDAC bills.)
It would be easy to blame this state of affairs solely on the legislators. Part of the blame, however, may also lie with the Executive Yuan. In past sessions, the EY and the legislators made a practice of countering each other's bills, the two sides then hammering out a version they could agree upon. But this arrangement has somehow broken down. This last session saw legislators present almost 400 bills that the EY failed to counter.
The situation was not helped by the never-ending, time-consuming controversies that seem to surround the LY. During the last session, these included the prolonged grilling of the new economics minister, Christine Tsung (finally ending in her resignation), the scandal over improprieties in the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant, and allegations of vote-buying during the approval process for leadership of the Examination Yuan. While corruption and vote-buying are important issues, these battles inevitably consume vital time and resources. Both the executive branch and the various parties in the LY need to redirect their energy toward scoring victories in the campaign for economic reform and in preserving the long-term vitality of Taiwan's economy.