The restructuring program has been given two more years for completion by the new legislature.
The eighth Legislative Yuan ended its four-year term in December without completing action on the entire government restructuring program it set out to undertake with passage of an umbrella law in 2010. The program, intended to streamline the executive branch and increase its efficiency, aims to cut the number of Cabinet-level organizations by about one quarter, from 37 to 29, and to locate related agencies under the same ministry to decrease the need for inter-agency coordination.
Still to be considered are specific organizational laws covering the proposed Ministry of Agriculture (an upgrading of the existing Council of Agriculture), Ministry of Economic and Energy Affairs (a revamped Ministry of Economic Affairs), Ministry of Transportation and Construction (the current Ministry of Transportation and Communications), Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Environment and Resources (based largely on the current Environmental Protection Administration), and Mainland Affairs Council. The allotted time for deliberation on the remaining bills has been extended for another two years into the newly elected ninth Legislative Yuan, which convened at the start of this month.
Last year, during a one-year extension from the original schedule, the Legislative Yuan managed to enact only one piece of government-reengineering legislation, the organization law to establish a new Oceanic Affairs Commission. The commission will oversee the existing Coast Guard Administration, now under the direct jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan, plus two new agencies: the Oceanic Preservation Administration and the National Oceanic Research Institute, both scheduled for establishment by the end of 2016 at the earliest. Among the commission’s duties will be to map out a comprehensive plan for coastal management and the preservation of Taiwan’s oceanic environment.
Last month’s landslide victory of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the presidential and legislative elections is expected to accelerate enactment of the remaining government-restructuring legislation. The Kuomintang (KMT) and DPP had originally reached agreement on passage of most of the remaining bills, but the consensus fell apart as a result of unrelated disputes over potential Constitutional revisions. In addition, passage of the Organizational Law for the Mainland Affairs Council was blocked by one of the smaller political parties, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which vehemently opposed the bill’s inclusion of an article enabling the mutual establishment of representative offices by Taiwan and China. The failure of TSU to gain any seats in the new legislature is expected to clear the way for early passage of the law.
Another point of contention has been the division of responsibility between the proposed Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Resources for the utilization and preservation of forest resources. The initial plan, for example, called for the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, now under the Council of Agriculture, to be transferred to the new Ministry of Environment and Resources. Many stakeholders opposed the idea, however. Under a tentative compromise, the bulk of the institute will remain in the Ministry of Agriculture, while some of its units related to ecological preservation will move to the Ministry of Environment and Resources, although differences of opinion still exist over which units should be transferred.
The renamed Ministry of Transportation and Construction (MOTC) will take over the duties of the Public Construction Commission (PCC) regarding the formulation of standards and quality supervision for public infrastructure projects. The PCC will be dissolved, as some of its functions have already been transferred to the new National Development Commission and the remainder will be taken up by the Ministry of Finance.
The previous plan to transfer the Construction and Planning Agency from the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) to the MOTC has been dropped, but MOI will pass the administration of national parks, which now comes under the Construction and Planning Agency, to the Ministry of Environment and Resources.
Portions of the reorganization program already completed include upgrading the Council for Cultural Affairs and Council of Labor Affairs to ministry levels, creating a new Ministry of Science and Technology (based largely around the former National Science Council), elevating the Department of Health to become the Ministry of Health and Welfare (taking over social-welfare functions from MOI), and converting the Council for Economic Planning and Development into the National Development Council with broader powers.