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June 29, 2017

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Basic changes of mentality needed for economic reform

Lawmakers have set up a cross-party alliance to tackle the country's economic woes. It is not a new legislative committee, but rather a platform where all camps in the Legislature can engage in a dialogue to iron out their differences.

While inter-party negotiations have been common inside the Legislature, the forming of the alliance seems to signal some fundamental changes in the way opposing camps see and treat one another.

The lawmakers — who have been eager to antagonize, rather than cooperate with each other — are showing more willingness to set aside their "hostility" and ideological differences for pressing matters.

The lawmakers may be friends in private and bear no hostility against each other, but in public they are "rivals" representing different interests, ideologies and constituents. That means setting aside these "specific" interests, ideologies and constituents for the broader well being of the entire nation may not be always possible, or desirable, in a democracy where all lawmakers have re-election concerns.

But Taiwan has come to a critical point where the nation can no longer afford to see its broader interests constantly hijacked by partisan and ideological interests.

Commenting on the establishment of the alliance, Legislator Ker Chien-ming, head of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, pointed out the obvious: The biggest issue in Taiwan now is the economy and it is imperative the Legislature tackle related issues in the coming sessions.

While the alliance has received blessings from the all parties represented in the Legislature, it remains to be seen whether the lawmakers will deliver what they promise.

Its first major test will come in the form of the review of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, which has been sitting idly in the Legislature for months after being signed by Taipei and Beijing. The government has been eager to have the pact ratified by the Legislature as soon as possible, but the main opposition camp has been bent on blocking it.

We do hope that the forming of the alliance has really ushered in fundamental changes in the operation of the Legislature, with lawmakers now more apt to embrace cooperation instead of antagonism.

Indeed, we need fundamental changes in many other aspects. Policy changes alone cannot solve our economic problems; the economic reform must be supported by changes in the way this nation sees itself.

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