Taiwan: Just A Simple Question

Again and again, the president (?) of Taiwan praised his diplomatic truce and this time he was talking about Haiti (HERE):

[…]

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Tuesday touted his foreign policy, saying that the rescue efforts of Taipei and Beijing in Haiti were a perfect example that his strategy of “diplomatic truce” with Beijing worked.

[…]

Where did he say that?

In San Francisco.

His plane brought aid goods.

Where did it land in the first place in view to deliver the aid goods?

In the Dominican Republic.

Haiti is an diplomatic ally.

So why Ma did not land on Haiti land?

So, why did he need to give the aid goods to Haiti from the Dominican Republic?

Oh, let me guess…

China can decide about the U.N. troops in Haiti.

So the president (?) of Taiwan which is a diplomatic ally of Haiti cannot land in Haiti.

And he still repeat and repeat how beautiful and successful is his diplomatic truce.

China decides. Obviously, not Taiwan.

Yeah… Diplomatic truce… A joke?

If I missed something or misunderstood something, please, let me know.

So bad for Taiwan.

😦

 

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Taiwan: Some Facts About Universities You Don’t Know

So the Taiwanese government wants to retain and recruit top professors at Universities by offering a higher salary and promote globalization (see for example HERE, HERE and HERE).

Fine.

Uh… And what’s about quality?

Maybe before elections, they do not talk about something which could make the people unhappy 🙂

… Especially given the fact that the today’s situation is the full responsibility of the Taiwanese policy makers.

I will provide below some figures and hopefully they will help us to have an idea about the real situation the Taiwanese Universities are facing to now.

I do not want to talk about what they mean by globalization, especially they are not so many programs in Taiwanese Universities only taught in English and beside, it is not really the main subject of my today’s post.

I should like to emphasize on the fact that the government plans to increase salaries before trying to improve the quality of the Universities in the first place.

Frankly speaking, do you believe that top professors will come to Taiwan with a salary equivalent to what they could easily obtain in western countries or in some areas in Asia if the academic environment is not favorable?

Same about the students: a lot of very good ones are already attracted by top Universities abroad. Even some Universities from Hong Kong came to Taiwan to enroll students at high schools, by providing them a very attractive package.

And beside offering very good Mandarin language courses, think about what may really attract foreign students from abroad (Europe, North America etc…) in regular programs.

Only a small number of Universities in Taiwan (public or private) are really focusing on quality.

The rest is fighting to get enough students, as reported by Paul Chen, director of Tamkang University’s Center for Study of Higher Education (HERE):

[…]

Instead of offering students the best possible education, universities in Taiwan are doing battle with each other to grab a slice of the shrinking pie

[…]

The Ministry of Education began blindly encouraging the founding of universities in the 1980s in response to calls for universal college education.

Time was when parents complained that their offspring had much difficulty passing joint college entrance examinations. Their complaints now are that their sons and daughters are finding it increasingly hard not to pass the entrance tests.

So how do you expect that new graduates can totally match what the labor market is asking in terms of quality?

As today according the statistics provided by the Ministry of Education – MOE (HERE), there are 102 Universities and 45 Colleges, said a total of 147 units.

If we take into account Junior Colleges, the total amount is 162.

Can you believe? 162… for a country roughly big as Belgium and a population of 23 million.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Or should we say ridiculous?

Let’s from now only base our remarks on the Universities and Colleges (147 in the academic year of 2008-2009).

I had a look on the statistics from the MOE (see the above link) from the academic year 2000/2001 to the year 2008/2009, said 9 years.

The number of Universities and Colleges went respectively from 53 and 74 to 102 and 45 said a total increase of 16%.

But this global percentage is misleading.

Colleges, according the data, were obviously upgraded into Universities. If no Universities were created, we should have 82 Universities [53 + (74-45)] but the final number is 102, said an increase of more than 24%.

Can you imagine? The total Universities was increased by one fourth…

From the first year to the last one of the time series, the total number of students increased by 88% (from 647,920 to 1,219,802).

With an average number of students per University in 2008/2009 of less than 8,300, the system created midget universities which cannot compete with bigger ones (resources, funding, environment…).

But in fact during those 9 years,  the number of students increased at decreasing rates (for the last 3 years for example: 3.97%, 2.77% and 2.32%) showing the impact from the demographic effects.

At this point, we can see how silly was the decision to increase the number of Universities.

Wait, it is not done yet.  🙂

The number of classes increased at a higher pace than for the number of students.

In average during the last 3 years for example, the number of students increased by roughly 3% when the number of classes increased by almost 5% in average during the same period of time.

So, are you surprised if I tell you that the ratio students per class decreased by 15% during the period of time (roughly from 46 to 39)?

Let’s talk now about professors.

The total full time professors increased during this period of time by 27% (from 39,565 to 50,078).

But the ratio students per professor deteriorated by 50% (from roughly 16 to 24)!

And can we have an idea about the quality? Hard if we just talk by average.

But still. Think about that: the number of students increased by 88% but the number of graduates increased by… 143% (from 118,383 to 287,725)!

It seems that it is not only easier to go to University, but it is even easier to get a degree.

Obviously there is a problem in the Taiwanese system, no?

What is the value of a degree obtained now here?

Here is the increase by degree:

  1. PhD: +115% (from 1,455 to 3,140)
  2. Master: +225% (from 16,757 to 54,387)
  3. Bachelor: +130% (from 100,171 to 230,198)

I remind you that the total number of students increased by only… 88%

The conclusion for me, as for you, is obvious.

And now, the key announced measure is to increase the professor salary?

Hum…

I do not say that there is not a problem about the salary. There is one, as I will show you below.

By the way, the idea from the government is to offer a higher salary for the new professors only or increase also the existing salaries?

OK, it is maybe not the first thing to do but obviously if we compare salaries in Taiwan, we must say that yes, there is a big difference, compared to other countries.

But if we really want to compare salaries, we should include the cost of living and obviously, it is cheaper to live in Taipei than Dubai or London which is not so easy.

Anyway, yes, the salary paid in Taiwan is lower than what is paid abroad (similar economic level countries).

In a recent article (HERE), it was said that in average, the monthly salary in Taiwan for a professor is (using USD/TWD = 32) USD2,810, compared to USD11,560 in Hong Kong.

I don’t know the source(s) of these figures.

And beside, there is a big difference between an Assistant Professor and a Professor. Moreover, I suppose that the annual bonus is included.

The best way to have an idea, is to have a look on some precise figures.

For example the City University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 2002 (HERE) offered (per month):

  1. Assistant professor: USD5,940 ~ 9,920
  2. Associate professor: USD9,230 ~ 12,400
  3. Professor: USD9,620 ~ 12,790

So of course, these figures are far away from the Taiwanese USD2,810 especially the salary from CUHK was offered… 8 years ago…

More recently, the University of Tennessee in its fact book (HERE) indicated an average US salary in 2007/2008 (2 years ago) for assistant, associate and professor respectively of USD4,720, 5,540 and 6,820. It is of course an average, some top professor being paid more than USD200,000.

I have another source (HERE), providing not the average but the median (50% receive less and 50% receive more) offering a comparison between countries.

The figures are:

 

Hong Kong 16,287 397%
Japan 6,983 113%
US 6,074 85%
South Korea 5,511 68%
Singapore 4,921 50%
Australia 4,751 45%
Taiwan 3,279 0%
Malaysia 2,851 -13%

 

The figures are in USD and represent the median monthly salary for a professor.

I put the last column to indicate the difference in percentage compared to Taiwan.

These statistics were collected in the year 2000… 10 years ago…

Salaries in Taiwan (and in other countries) are still roughly at the same level today…

Sure, it is just a median statistics which did not include the cost of living and other variables (quality, environment, etc), but at least, it provides a gross way to compare.

So yes, the salary in Taiwan maybe a problem too.

And I remind you that 50% of the professors in Taiwan get less than USD3,279 per month.

I am even sure that the median is much more below this figure today.

I wish you have now a better idea about the situation Taiwanese Universities are facing to.

It is always better to look at the facts than just listen political commentators.

And obviously, a lot of things should be done to improve the Taiwanese situation.

There are still good Universities, professors and students in Taiwan.

They deserve a better academic environment.

 

Mots clés Technorati : ,,,

Taiwan: Violence In The Legislature And ECFA (Again)

During the last few days, some news came on a regular basis:

  1. Violence among legislators (Legislative Yuan)
  2. The idea that signing an EFCA with China is the only hope for Taiwan and it will allow Taiwan to sign FTA with other countries with China blessing it
  3. Increase the professor’s salary in Taiwanese Universities as a mean to improve the status of academic institutions

I will give today my one cent comments about the former two points and let the latter to a future post.

So, there is too much violence in the Legislature…

Obviously, no one can oppose to that fact. For foreigners living in Taiwan, it is always a strange, ridiculous, funny (?) and dangerous show to see legislators insulting each others and fistfights on a regular basis.

What’s an example about Democracy which people are supposed to develop and cherish.

When fistfights replace ideas…

As a remedy, the new appointed Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung is in favor to the assignment of a sergeant-at-arms to the legislature (and it) would be in keeping with a practice in western countries that effectively helps to enhance democracy (HERE and HERE).

Wow!

An armed-man inside the legislature to avoid clashes…

So, what is he supposed to do? Fire on the bad legislators to bring back calm and peace?

Are you serious?

Beside, create a low enforcement system as suggested by the KMT is a way to belittle the Legislature’s autonomy.

One more way for the party to totally control everything?

Maybe…

Moreover, the KMT Secretary King said:

[…]

the assignment of a sergeant-at-arms to the legislature would be in keeping with a practice in western countries that effectively helps to enhance democracy

[…]

That is not only very strange to say that, but it is also not accurate.

Let’s take the example of France (but it is very similar in all democratic countries). If you go to the French Legislature Website (HERE – in French but Google can easily translate it) we can see that yes, there are military, police and firefighters staff inside the buildings.

But let’s be more precise:

  1. The President of the Legislature is the ONLY responsible of the security inside the buildings and only him can decide. Not the main political party or the government.
  2. The forces are only there to protect the Legislature from people coming from outside to interrupt sessions or to launch attacks.

In no ways those forces are there to separate legislators in case of clashes.

And the autonomy of the Institution is totally preserved.

I totally condemn violence whoever started it, minority or main party. It is totally unacceptable.

But what if it is the only one way to bring public attention to an unacceptable proposed bill which could put down the spirit of democracy (as said by some)? I don’t know. It’s a very complicate and sensitive question especially if people are normally in favor of democracy and against any form of violence, which is deeply my case.

Beside, according the news, it doesn’t seem that the DPP (minority) is more violent than KMT. There are more news about KMT elected convicted for vote buying or linked to the mafia. And recently, a KMT candidate who lost the election came with a gun to the headquarter of his opponent (who won the election). There are so many examples from the newspapers but it is not the point here.

Anyway, a cartoon from the Taipei Times (April 26 2009) is quite representative of what, according the news, the opposition thinks:

Let’s go back to what the new appointed Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung said:

[…]

In a democratic society, the minority should abide by the majority. Legislators from the opposition parties should not occupy the podium even if negotiations break down

[…]

Oh, there were negotiations?

The controversial bills were voted during the clash according the news.

Minority should abide by the majority?

I thought minority should abide by the law (as the majority…).

Laws govern a country. Not the majority.

Yes, I know what you will say: laws are voted by the majority.

Right, but there is still a subtle nuance worthy to note.

Beside, I am not sure that the fact that there are main and minority parties is an evidence that a clean democracy exists.

Even in western countries such as France and USA we may have a lot of questions.

But:

  • when most of the media are controlled by one party,
  • when the election system does not give the merited weight to all political parties,
  • when the president of the country is also the chairman of the main party,
  • when people don’t know if the president is “on the road” as the president of all people or as the chairman of the party,
  • when the party has a great influence on the government and judicial system,
  • when people are not any more sure that Justice is independent
  • when the party is in charge of international negotiations and not the government
  • when the legislature has no idea of the content of the negotiations
  • when etc…

What do people get? Democracy? I am not sure.

See for example, Venezuela, Russia and… You know 🙂

Last Sunday, Taipei Times published an interview its reporters made with the Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou (HERE).

Here are some excerpts:

[…]

Take the amendment to the Local Government Act as an example. I have no control over who wins the special municipality elections. I want to give the country a stronger competitive edge by remapping the districts. I am doing this for the country and the people, not for a party

[…]

I thought the biggest problem about the bill was about the appointment of local district chiefs who are already in post, without letting the possibility to the new elected mayor(s) to chose his/her staff.

I also understood from the news that most of those chiefs are from the KMT.

Hum…

[…]

We will present a report to the legislature after holding formal negotiations with mainland China, and will also explain the matter to the public, so that people will understand what ECFA is

[…]

Why not let the public and legislature know what is going on about the negotiations before they are done?

You can also notice that he used the term “mainland China”.

[…]

So when we sign FTAs, we can do it with our major trading partners, such as mainland China, Japan, the US, ASEAN countries, the European Union, South Korea and Singapore.

Mainland China has signed more than 10 FTAs. Once we ink an ECFA with the mainland, ASEAN countries will not reject the idea of talking with us

If we sign an ECFA with mainland China, the pressure and obstruction to our effort to sign FTAs with other countries will be reduced

[…]

Can you really believe that after signing an ECFA, China will let Taiwan signs FTA with other countries?

Can you believe it when the only goal of China is to take Taiwan?

Can you believe it when China said recently that it opposes any official contacts between countries and Taiwan?

You can read this article (see the above link). The end is also very interesting, especially about the influence the KMT general secretary has on the government and public institutions (EPA).

The final answer of the president about it is:

There’s nothing wrong with the procedure

Obviously, nothing can be done about the ECFA. It will be signed.

But about violence, I do not believe that proposing means to fight against violence when it is erupting, is a solution. It is like fighting against temperature by breaking the thermometer. We don’t see anymore the fever but it is still there.

What people have to do is fighting against what may create violence.

People should cherish talks, ideas and negotiations. Not fistfights.

People from the majority but also from the minority.

 

 

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Taiwan: What The Police Is Doing?

Everyone is trying to promote sport, environment etc…

A very good way is to develop biking in the city, to replace as much as possible and reasonable, scooters and/or cars.

Kaohsiung city as several other cities in Taiwan, provides bicycles for public use.

Have a look on that picture shot in Kaohsiung:

PHOTO: KO YU-HAO, TAIPEI TIMES

How can you pick up a bike?

All are blocked by parked scooters.

What the police is doing?

Ridiculous…

 

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Taiwan: Still It Is Not My Fault (Again)

Many times, M. Ma was accused as the former mayor of Taipei or as the actual president of Taiwan (not only for breaking the law).

Usually, scapegoats were found and even one went to jail.

Today in the news (HERE), we learnt that a pharmaceutical company, China Chemical & Pharmaceutical Co (CCPC) was fined TWD100 million (more than USD3 million).

Why?

Simple: from 2001 to 2004, this company sold directly or indirectly drugs to Taipei City Municipal Hospital for an amount of TWD140 million (about USD4.5 million).

Uh… What is the problem?

Again, simple: this company violated the law by making business deals with the city government while the mayor of Taipei was a member of the Deputy Manager’s family.

Who was the mayor of Taipei at that time?

M. Ma.

Who was the Deputy Manager?

The oldest sister of M. Ma.

I have some naive questions:

  • Are these activities covered by criminal laws? Logically yes. If yes, will this former Deputy Manager be convicted?
  • To make any deal, two sides are needed. What’s about the other side, I mean Taipei City?
  • Will only the company be fined and manager(s) convicted?
  • Will Taipei City Hall be involved too?
  • Will the mayor at that time be involved (convicted) too?
  • Or will a scapegoat be the culprit? (did you say as usual?)

Oh, I know what you are thinking about.

M. Ma, when he was the mayor of Taipei, did not know that her sister sold for more than USD4 million of drugs to the City Hospital.

So, he has nothing to do with that story.

And maybe an obscure civil servant in Taipei City Hall will need to worry right now.

😆

 

Mots clés Technorati : ,,,

Taiwan: Who Is Really In Charge?

Since a while, I have a strange feeling.

Is it because a new year is starting and nobody knows what will be in the box?

Or does the reason lie on the feeling that nobody knows who is supposed to do what?

I am wondering about the latter. It seems a good explanation.

See for example: who is supposed to handle the story about the American beef in Taiwan? Any normal people will answer: the Department of Health (DOH), of course!

Wrong answer my friends: it is the National Security Council (NSC).

Uh… Why?

According the news (HERE):

[…]

Many people ask why the National Security Council (NSC) handled the Taiwan-US beef protocol instead of the Department of Health (DOH) or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The NSC later said it became involved because it was a matter of national security.

[…]

Wow! When I am buying beef in my local shop, I am engaging in national security activities 😆

All this story created a real mess here. The government even decided to send a group in US (for what?).

But no one could be surprised: the legislature was not informed in advance, was not consulted during negotiations, and after the signing, was required to support the decision.

When the people in charge are not the one who negotiated, what do you expect about the result(s)?

Taipei Times Editorial Cartoon

In other words, the government wants to transform people into a "rubber stamp".

Rubber stamp, you said rubber stamp?

Another mess here: the negotiation on the economic agreement between China and Taiwan (Taiwan… for how long?).

Obviously, nothing was transparent and no one knows about the details except the people who are negotiating (some people don’t call that negotiation, given the fact that it’s China which decides…).

By the way, who is supposed to negotiate? Uh… The Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) no?

Again, wrong answer my friends.

According the news (HERE):

[…]

The head of the Straits Exchange Foundation yesterday told a meeting of
legislative committees that he was just a "rubber stamp" and that his job is
only to sign the cross-strait agreements.

[…]

So, who negotiated? We may have some ideas…

Again, one more rubber stamp. And more are coming, given the fact that the lawmakers and population can do nothing.

The funny part is that the “rubber stamp” still repeat that the economic agreement cannot be delayed…

As the rabbit from the magical hat, the ECFA will come out, as the beef story did.

Beside, one agreement was supposed to be signed among others, a week ago, the double taxation agreement.

According some article (HERE):

[…]

On the night before Chen’s arrival in Taiwan, the Ministry of Finance was ­extolling the ­virtues of a double taxation agreement, saying how determined it was to see the agreement signed. Less than 48 hours later, however, the agreement was on the shelf, put there by public opinion and businesspeople.

[…]

Obviously, some aspects of the discussion (and clearly not agreement) were refused by China.

And the government still insist saying that no political subjects are involved?

More important, what does the government plan to do?

As we can read HERE from academics:

[…]

Academics yesterday lashed out at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government for what they called “a lack of concrete direction” in its policy on cross-strait relations.

Taiwan has entered an era when the national leader is failing to fill the role of pilot

the government was simply relying on China to improve the nation’s economic fortunes and had no clue how to improve the nation’s economy itself

[…]

According to them, China will be in charge of Taiwan. Not its government.

One more example: who is supposed to be in charge of the name of Taiwanese NGO?

Uh… The Taiwanese NGO, no?

Again, wrong answer my friends.

According yesterday news (HERE),

[…]

More than 10 Taiwanese NGOs faced pressure from China or from their international headquarters to change their names or locations

[…]

And as you can guess, the name should include “Taiwan, China”.

So, let’s go back to the initial question: Who is in charge here?

Clearly, it is not the people who are supposed to.

 

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