The President’s Red Envelopes

It’s 6:50 AM. I am standing in front of a classroom door at an elementary school. Inside the room, there’s a flurry of activity as clerks sit in tiny classroom chairs counting endless stacks of colorful paper. I was early enough to be the first in line. This made me thankful but also made me appear greedy as well. I am standing here waiting for my share of the colorful pieces of paper the clerks are counting out. Those pieces of paper, otherwise known as Taiwan’s Voucher Program, are President Ma Ying-jiu’s solution for Taiwan’s sagging economy. Every citizen of Taiwan, young or old, rich or poor, and even foreigners married to Taiwanese citizens, is entitled to $3,600NT (approximately $120US) in spending vouchers. Unlike the tax rebate checks that George W. handed out to Americans last year, these vouchers can only be spent domestically and cannot be put into the bank, ensuring that people in Taiwan go on a shopping spree to boost the economy.

All around me there are uniformed police guarding the premises. I suppose they are there to watch over the handling of the vouchers, but I am secretly hoping they will also make sure no one cuts in front of me, something I should be used to by now, but still get really annoyed by. The police themselves are huddling together checking out their own voucher notification forms, trying to figure out where they need to go to pick up their vouchers before the throngs of people arrive. Slowly, sleepy-eyed people start to file into the school looking for the right classrooms and right lines to stand in, and by 8am, when the doors are officially opened, the school is packed with long lines. I hold steadfast to my rightful place as first in line. No one is cutting in front of me today!

There’s a sense of excitement in the air. We’re all about to receive free money! And just in time for Chinese New Year! Walking down the street coming here, I saw signs everywhere advertising sales in connection with the voucher program. For $3,600, you can get a new cell phone, a two-night stay at a boutique hotel, or two pairs of new shoes. Merchants are all competing for their share of the vouchers, encouraging people to spend as much as possible. It’s hard to know how much of an impact the vouchers will have on the economy. It just seems strange to be told to go out and spend money in order to help your country. After all, are we not in the midst of an economic crisis partially as a result of unwise borrowing and spending? But then, who am I to judge? More importantly, who am I to pass up free money? As an American with a patriotic Taiwanese passport, I think I am willing to take on the challenge of helping out the economy during the Chinese New Year holiday. The president beckons us to go forth and shop till the vouchers run out. Who are we to refuse?

About the Author

Chieni was born in Taiwan and moved to the States permanently when she was 12. This means she grew up both in Taiwan and in the US. Now she looks at Taiwan both as an insider and an outsider. She is an insider because she speaks the language and knows some of the customs. She is an outsider because she doesn’t always understand the customs. She has a beautiful little girl now to show off to her family and the locals.

3 Responses to “ The President’s Red Envelopes ”

  1. Hey! Free money, not bad

    I am surprised that they even give it to foreigners

  2. Chieni is both a foreigner and a local. She was born in Taiwan and moved to the States permanently when she was 12. SO she can get the cash and I think her husband an child can too.

  3. All we Taiwanese people need is a solution,which leads our economy to a better situation for a LONG term.For example,government should develop a new industry for Taiwan to compete with other conuntries in 30,even 50 years time and create more jobs for their poeple.I can’t see this “red-envolop” programe can help anything for our shakky economy, but a vote-buying by using our children’s money. I also disagreed with the title “the president’s red envolopes”. That’s because he is using our and children’s money to do this meaningless stuff.Moreover,why should an american passport holder,who has been living in USA for a long long time coming back to Taiwan to get Taiwanese people’s money(government borrowed it)without paying a single money for tax?I totally disagreed with that!Where is beef? We need beef,not things like “red envolope”.

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