Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Tsung needs substance, not fluff

Since she took office last month, Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Tsung (宗才怡) has been a target of criticism from the media and lawmakers alike. In a bid to improve relations with both groups, she has tried to strengthen her ministry's public relations staff. But Tsung is putting her efforts into the wrong place. Instead of working for the economy, she is focusing on public relations. As a result, she is losing on both fronts.

Chen Wei-ti (陳韋迪), a alleged PR virtuoso hired by Tsung, resigned yesterday under fire from law-makers. It's unfortunate that Chen turned out to be so unprofessional. He created a new position for himself -- director of the minister's office -- and started issuing orders. He squabbled with reporters and asked for an office car, among other things. Law-makers called him the "underground minister." Not only had he failed to help Tsung with her PR problems, but created a whole new crisis for her.

Hopefully, Tsung will learn a lesson from Chen's departure -- professionalism is all-important. How long she survives as a minister depends on whether she can recognize the problems confronting her and effectively resolve them. She has made a series of errors because she doesn't have the professional expertise or knowledge needed to run the ministry. She has also been less than discreet. Tsung should recognize her limitations and work to overcome them. She needs to focus on the critical job at hand -- salvaging the economy, not her job. And she needs more economic experts, not PR flaks trying to smooth over criticism from lawmakers and the media.

Tsung's woes have been aggravated by the complex political and economic issues surrounding the dispute over lifting the ban on eight-inch wafer fabs migrating to China. The economic ministry has come under attack from TSU lawmakers for agreeing in principle to lift the ban. The TSU has called on Tsung, Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) and vice economic minister Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) to resign over the matter. Now that the Cabinet has reached a tacit agreement with the TSU to delay the lifting of the ban, Tsung and her officials are being slammed by pro-unification lawmakers who have been clamoring for the ban to be lifted as soon as possible.

Tsung will have no peace of mind until the eight-inch fab dispute is resolved -- and not much even then. Whatever the ministry decides, many people are going to be very unhappy. Tsung can only hope limit the criticism by standing firm on impartial decision-making procedures, allowing both the pro and con groups to fully air their arguments to the special task force that will make the final decision and making the debate as transparent as possible.

An article published in the Sunday issue of this newspaper called for a one-year delay in lifting the wafer ban -- an option that may lessen the political and economic impact of the high-tech migration and at the same time ease opposition to the move. Such a delay may not be fully satisfactory to either side in the debate, but may be the best remedy. Under attack from all sides, Tsung should understand that PR cannot save her from a crisis, but good policymaking can.

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