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August 22, 2017

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Controversy over stock gains tax carries political subtext

The row over the Ma administration's plan to introduce a tax on stock gains has been a financial issue on the surface. But there has been a political subtext about President Ma Ying-jeou's leadership.

Ma has been stressing from the start that the stock gains tax is part of his agenda to restore fairness to the taxation system.

Debates and questions have been surrounding issues such as whether the government's design is sufficient or in the right direction to achieve what it aims for, or how much impact the tax would have on the stock market and the economy in general.

For Finance Minister Christina Liu, there is a personal touch to her reform — to finish what her mother Shirley Kuo was herself unable to complete. Kuo stepped down as finance minister almost two decades ago after a failed attempt at introducing a stock gains tax.

Now both Ma and Liu seem to be bent on finishing the task quickly, ignoring the reasons, the reality and the complexity behind the long delay.

But time and time again Ma has shown to the nation how single-minded he can be. He has been reluctant to make compromises on the things that he thinks are correct to do although he actually has had made a lot of compromises.

He must have dreamt of following in the footsteps of those legendary righteous officials and emperors of ancient China who were not afraid to stand up to the entire world, but that could only be a dream — or a nightmare — in the modern-day democratic reality.

It is no secret that Ma has not been seeing eye-to-eye with many KMT heavyweights, such as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

He hates factional control of regional politics, which he sees as the root of corruption. He has tried to get rid of it by nominating "clean" candidates with no connection with local factions in several elections, but the results have been mostly disastrous — the KMT's loss in the Lugang township chief race in Changhua County earlier this month being the latest example.

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