The deadline for completion of the reorganization plan has been extended to the end of this year.
Under the original schedule, a plan for extensive restructuring of the government’s executive branch – reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 37 to 29 and enhancing efficiency by bringing related functions under the same ministry – was supposed to be completed between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014. Over the past two years, 22 new or restructured central-level agencies have indeed received legislative approval and started operations. These include the Ministry of Culture (upgrading the former Council for Cultural Affairs), Ministry of Labor (from the Council of Labor Affairs), Ministry of Science and Technology (National Science Council), Ministry of Health and Welfare (Department of Health), and the National Development Council (Council for Economic Planning and Development).
But continued disagreements within the Legislative Yuan (LY) over transformation of some remaining agencies made it clear for some time that the year-end 2014 deadline would be impossible to meet. On December 17, the legislature passed a bill proposed by Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Lu Hsueh-chang to postpone the deadline by one year.
The seven organizations still awaiting legislative action are the proposed Ministry of Economic and Energy Affairs (currently the Ministry of Economic Affairs), Ministry of Transportation and Construction (now the Ministry of Transportation and Communications), Ministry of Agriculture (Council of Agriculture), Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (mainly the Environmental Protection Administration), Ministry of Interior, Mainland Affairs Council, and a new Ocean Affairs Council.
The hold-up in approval reflects a wider phenomenon in the LY – the practice in the parliamentary body, despite the large KMT majority, of seeking consensus among various political forces before voting on major bills. The new organizational statute for the Mainland Affairs Council, for instance, has been blocked by the Taiwan Solidarity Union, whose party caucus opposes the idea of mutual establishment of official representative offices by Taiwan and China.
Negotiations among the legislative caucuses of the various parties have reportedly ironed out most of the major differences that were blocking approval of enabling legislation. Agreement was reached, for example, to keep the Central Weather Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Construction, rather than transfer it to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources as originally planned; to incorporate the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission into the Mainland Affairs Council; and to retain the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate forestation, instead of transferring it to the Ministry of Environment and National Resources (although the Ministry will still take over the Institute’s functions related to biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources).
Still to be resolved, however, are several divergent bills put forth by individual legislators – in addition to a bill formulated by the Executive Yuan – for the organizational statute of the Ocean Affairs Council. The Council is expected to incorporate the existing Coast Guard Administration, along with new entities responsible for the oceanic policy planning and promotion, oceanic resources, maritime safety, coastal management, and oceanic culture/education.
In addition, some legislators are asking for reconsideration of a previously reached consensus that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources structure would include both a National Parks Administration (upgraded from the current National Parks Department under the Ministry of Interior) and a Forestry and Conservation Administration (from the existing Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture). Maintaining that the functions of the two administrations heavily overlap, these lawmakers are calling for them to be combined under the reorganization program.