Sat, Jul 01, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Ho's appointment greeted warmly

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Henry Ho, head of the economics department at National Taiwan University, yesterday tells reporters that he felt nervous yet honored to assume the post of minister of finance.

PHOTO: HSIEH WEN-HUA, TAIPEI TIMES

The Cabinet's announcement late on Thursday night that Joseph Lyu (呂桔誠) would be replaced by economics professor Ho Chih-chin (何志欽) as the new minister of finance was warmly received in academic and industry circles.

Ho, 54, with a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan, is head of the economics department at National Taiwan University. Having served as principal economist at the US Internal Revenue Service, Ho is familiar with the US' alternative maximum tax (AMT) and inheritance and gift tax schemes.

"It is a very positive personnel change," said Hwa Erh-cheng (華而誠), professor of economics at Shih Hsin University and who has two decades of experience working with the IMF and World Bank.

The new finance chief is a good-natured scholar and his 15-year experience as a US public servant could help him deal with political challenges and effectively defend and promote the ministry's policies, Hwa said.

Outside Ho's university office yesterday morning, the new minister told reporters that he felt nervous yet honored to assume his new post.

"I'll do my best to improve the nation's finance system and promote a fair and sound taxation system," Ho said, adding that stabilizing the ministry's personnel structure will be his primary task.

Last year, when then finance minister Lin Chuan (林全) geared up to push through the AMT, Ho was commissioned to conduct relevant studies and served as a member of the ministry's taxation consultation committee.

In February, Ho was invited by the Presidential Office to report on inheritance and gift tax reforms. He supports adjusting inheritance and gift tax rates as well as integrating their tax bases in the short term, while unifying these two tax schemes as a long-term goal to establish a lifelong wealth transfer system for fair taxation.

Now the ministry is studying the possibility and drafting measures to facilitate the reform.

Pundits have said that Ho's professional expertise includes taxation and the national treasury, which are the most important tasks the finance ministry now needs to address.

The Financial Supervisory Commission, which was established two years ago, has taken over governance of banking, insurance and securities.

Shirley Yang (楊慶祺), a fund manager who manages funds worth NT$1.2 billion (US$37 million) at Invesco Taiwan Ltd (景順投信), said the industry holds high expectations for Ho's arrival, and hopes he can jump-start the much-needed but temporarily stalled taxation reform and dispel public doubts about the governance of state-controlled financial institutions.

She said the government's second-stage financial reform has aroused concern that state banks would fall into the hands of private conglomerates. The ministry should be cautious in privatizing these state-owned banks, or "it could as well integrate these businesses to form a large-scale financial holding firm," Yang suggested.

The ministry's hand-over ceremony is expected to be held next Wednesday, according to a close aide of the outgoing Lyu, although the ministry has yet to issue a formal notice.

It is widely believed that Lyu was replaced for his failure to safeguard state shareholding in Mega Financial Holding Co (兆豐金控) and controversies in a syndicated loan granted to Taiwan Development Corp (台灣土地開發) when he served as chairman of the Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行).

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