Fri, Jan 27, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Few straight answers from Morgan Hwang


Boasting management expertise and an impressive track record in revamping state-run enterprises, the new Minister of Economic Affairs Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) carries the weight of expectation from local industry to write a new page for the nation's economy.

But Hwang's performance in his first two days in office has been rather disappointing and has served only to raise even more doubts in the minds of the public.

The issue that most concerns the business community in the New Year is President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "active opening, effective management" stance on cross-strait relations, which has led to widespread speculation and been interpreted in a myriad of different ways.

Industry heavyweights were understandably keen to get a more explicit interpretation from the new economic minister, but although Hwang tried his best, his seemingly vague and contradictory explanation left reporters attending his first press conference yesterday none the wiser.

At his inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Hwang said that all governments need to manage their economic policies, claiming that "active management" means "managing the crucial points," and that only through active management would the best results be achieved.

But when asked what the "crucial points" are that he aims to manage at the press conference the next day, the former business professor said that he needs some time to get to know what should be managed and what should not. Still more curiously, he added that the best management would be "no management at all," with businesses abiding by the current regulations.

Hwang appeared contradictory again when he was asked how he would run the ministry.

Running the ministry should be like running a service company, the new minister said, adding that he hopes the ministry will view companies as its customers and aim to fulfill their needs.

The chances of this happening seem slim however, as while local and foreign business groups have called for more liberal regulations on China-bound investments and the lifting of the 40 percent investment cap, Hwang insists that the priority should be maintaining the best interests of the nation.

He also failed to answer questions on his vision for planning and developing local industries and improving the investment environment, replying only that he would try his best to resolve the problems companies have encountered -- indicative of a rather conservative approach to boosting the local economy.

Some may attribute Hwang's out-of-sorts performance to the fact that he has just taken up his post. However, it should be remembered that when his predecessor, Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥), was sworn in as Minister of Economic Affairs on May 20, 2004, she clearly detailed her thoughts on various policies.

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