Mon, Aug 07, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: New Cabinet lineup puts onus on Su

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has a bad record when it comes to personnel appointments. Too many changes have occurred far too quickly. This point was underscored last Friday when Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced nine personnel changes in a Cabinet reshuffle designed to restore public confidence in the government's administrative capability.

The appointment of Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) to replace Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) as minister of economic affairs is just the latest saga of the DPP government's well-known obsession with finding new blood to revitalize its public image. Chen will be the sixth economics minister since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000.

And it was only in late June that the Ministry of Finance welcomed economics professor Ho Chih-chin (何志欽) to serve as the sixth minister of finance in six years. As for Su himself, he is the fifth premier of the Chen administration.

Observers say that such reshuffling at least helps the DPP build up experience and the long-term capacity to govern. But the frequent coming and going of premiers and ministers has weakened the government's credibility and led to inconsistent policymaking.

So it's well worth asking if the government has learned anything in its time in power, and what the government hopes to achieve with this new batch of appointees.

The appointment of a career technocrat like Steve Chen as economics minister is expected to reassure the business community and balance the demands of the governing and opposition parties. Hwang was criticized for his controversial leadership style, hardline policy on China-bound investment and a tense relationship with Su. If the premier hadn't replaced him, the situation would have become progressively more embarrassing, both for Hwang and the government.

Replacing Hwang with Chen was therefore a wise decision. He has a solid technical background that neither the pan-green or pan-blue camps can criticize. Nevertheless, when Chen takes the helm he will run into the same challenges his predecessor faced, such as how to increase domestic investment, promote business innovation, smooth the transition of the economy from manufacturing into services and improve cross-strait trade ties.

Also on Friday, Su appointed Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉) to replace Kong Jaw-sheng (龔照勝) as chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), and named Vice Minister of Finance Gordon Chen (陳樹) to replace Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) as chairman of the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The changes came amid concerns about the legitimacy and accountability of policies made by the FSC after Kong was suspended in May for alleged corruption, and under pressure to fill Wu's position after the DPP heavyweight tendered his resignation in June.

These appointments are refreshing. But more importantly, Su appears to have consolidated his power with this round of Cabinet changes -- several of the president's men were replaced by Su stalwarts.

Moreover, Su's Cabinet lineup demonstrates a tendency to pick personnel on the basis of professional competence rather than political calculation or personal relations.

Naming experienced technocrats to the nation's top jobs will help Su broaden his support base, and also shows that he is determined to face the country's thorny economic problems head-on. If he fails, the responsibility will now fall squarely on his shoulders.

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