Wed, Feb 06, 2013 - Page 13 News List

New minister set to face big challenges

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Despite his strong background in running state-owned enterprises and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) chairman Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) faces a challenge in his new job as minister of economic affairs.

Among the challenges awaiting Chang are cross-strait trade negotiations with China, the resumption of trade talks with the US, and the timely completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

During a press conference at CAL headquarters in Taoyuan on Monday, Chang confirmed his appointment as the new economics minister and said he would “make his best efforts to fulfill the ministry’s responsibilities.”

However, he faces stiff challenges in the near future, pundits said.

“Nobody expected that the ministry was going to be led by someone who has a deep knowledge of transportation, but little of the nation’s economy,” National Taiwan University economics professor Kenneth Lin (林向愷) told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview yesterday.

NOTORIOUS

Lin said the ministry has been notorious for its poor performance in upgrading the nation’s industries amid intensifying global competition.

Citing South Korea’s success in industrial transformation as an example, Lin said Taiwan has been lagging behind its major rival since 2000, but President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration seems unaware of the urgency of the problem and is still using models adopted 30 years ago to try to solve current issues.

“The biggest economic issue facing Taiwan now is to speed up industrial transformation,” Lin said.

Under Ma’s leadership, the government has focused resources on large exporters, which have invested in China, while allowing high unemployment and low wages in Taiwan, he said.

Lin said he did not expect to see Chang make great changes to the nation’s economy apart from stabilizing product prices or stopping fuel and electricity price hikes.

Chang’s role at China Steel Corp (CSC, 中鋼) has brought special praise, but Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安), chairman of the Taiwan Petroleum Workers’ Union, cast doubt on Chang’s ability to reform state-run enterprises.

“We don’t think the ministry has identified problems, nor do we have any expectation it can accomplish reforms under Chang’s leadership,” he said.

During the Lunar New Year holidays the union plans to protest state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan’s (CPC, 台灣中油) plan to cut workers’ year-end bonuses, he said.

Asked whether the ministry has come up with plans to help CPC workers at Greater Kaohsiung’s Nanzih District (楠梓) find new jobs after the plant’s closure in 2015, Chuang said the ministry had promised it would conduct a thorough review of the plan in meetings with the union last year, but had yet to respond to the prospect of job losses, nor had it consulted with the workforce.

SHAREHOLDERS

Kenner Wang (王為敏), chairman and president of IBTS Investment Consulting Co (台灣工銀投顧), yesterday told the Taipei Times that the government should view the public as shareholders and use all necessary means to restore national prosperity.

“It is matter of determination,” Wang said.

Officials at China Airlines yesterday backed Chang’s appointment, citing his ability to immediately grasp the core problem in a new working environment.

“In his career, Chang has several times been appointed to manage a company or institution which was brand new to him, but was still able to put these companies on the right track,” a CAL official told the Taipei Times, citing Chang’s plan to strengthen the carrier’s financial structure.

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