Fri, Mar 22, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Economics minister Lin brings hope

NEW DEAL The premier moved swiftly following Christine Tsung's departure, naming a 36-year ministry veteran and KMT member to head the critical office

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) officially assumed the position of Minister of Economic Affairs yesterday, bringing to the office what pundits see as a solid body of experience in economics and public affairs, traits blatantly missing in his predecessor.

The speed with which Lin was tapped by Premier Yu Shyi-kun after Christine Tsung's (宗才怡) sudden resignation illustrated the government's desire to put an economic veteren at the forefront of the ministry.

"Lin's 36 years in the ministry and extensive experience with foreign trade will serve him well when making policy decisions on industry and investment," said Hsu Chen-ming (許振明), an economist at the National Taiwan University.

Hsu said that with pressing issues such as the water shortage in key industrial districts, the liberalization of investment in China and the fifth ministerial meeting of the WTO in Mexico next year, a speedy selection was needed.

At the handover ceremony in which Tsung did not attend because of a "cold," Lin said that the premier had expressed his desire to see him use his many years experience to quickly put "Taiwan's economy on a `war footing' so as to aggressively bolster international competitiveness."

One of the major complaints about Tsung -- on both sides of the political fence -- was that she was taking too long to acquire an understanding of Taiwan's economy, which under current circumstances couldn't afford to wait.

Other concrete tasks on Lin's agenda include improving the general investment environment, bolstering private investment by completing the power and water infrastructure required for industry and attracting investment from multinationals to speed up economic growth.

Andy Xie (謝國忠), an analyst at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, said that under Tsung's leadership the ministry's policy direction had become "confused."

The choice of Lin may also counter the bad press Tsung generated for the ministry and the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration when confronted by lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan.

A foreign analyst, who requested anonymity, said "Lin is someone that is likely to make the legislature happy because he has the basic tools needed to do the job."

In a poll conducted by TVBS after Tsung's resignation, 46 percent of respondents said she quit after only 48 days on the job because of unrelenting criticism from lawmakers, while 31 percent said she threw in the towel because she wasn't qualified to hold the post.

As a KMT member, Lin may also be better suited to deal with opposition lawmakers.

"Lin is the obvious choice. He's been around a long time and he doesn't have an independent agenda or radical ideas. He's a proven administrator and a solid bureaucrat -- the kind of person the legislature will be more willing to work with," said Jonathan Anderson, regional analyst at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.

"Job No. 1 for the government now is to keep a good relationship with the legislature," Anderson said.

KMT lawmaker Lin Yi-shih (林益世) said after meeting with Lin yesterday that Lin's experience would make it easier for him to quickly adapt to his new position as head of the ministry.

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