There will be a new Cabinet line-up and a personnel reshuffle in the Presidential Office and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) this week, and the appointments highlight the daunting challenges for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as he addresses economic hardship while ushering in a new generation in the 100-year-old party.
In the new Cabinet, financial expert Vice Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) is slated to take over as premier tomorrow, when Premier and vice president-elect Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) formally resigns, while Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) will become vice premier.
Deputy Legislative Speaker Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) is expected to become the new Presidential Office secretary-general, and former KMT whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) is set to become Executive Yuan secretary-general. Public Construction Commission Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) is expected to take over as the minister of the interior and focus his efforts on infrastructure and affordable housing.
The appointment of Chen, a former Financial Supervisory Commission chairman, came as no surprise, because boosting the nation’s economy, especially amid the European debt crisis, remains a major task for the Ma administration in the next four years. The president is showing his determination to implement his promise to focus government efforts on handling economic issues during his second term.
While Ma has defended the government’s efforts to revive the country’s economy over the past three years, economic data from the US, China and other major economies suggests that the global economic outlook this year remains gloomy, even in countries going through a recovery.
It is, therefore, difficult to be optimistic about the capability of the so-called “Finance Cabinet” to guide the country through the global financial crisis, because Ma’s pledge to seek closer ties will only deepen the nation’s economic dependence on China.
While battling the global financial crisis, Ma and the new Cabinet must do a better job in handling stagnant wages, skyrocketing housing prices and the wealth gap — the same issues for which government’s lackluster performance drew criticism during Ma’s first term.
Aside from the Cabinet line-up, the personnel reshuffle reveals Ma’s plan to usher in a new generation of leaders in the KMT and to carry out the party reform that he failed to achieve during his first term in office.
Young officials from Ma’s re-election campaign will mostly take over the major positions in the Presidential Office and the party. The deputy executive director of Ma’s re-election camp, Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), will become the vice secretary-general in the Presidential Office, while campaign spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) will serve as vice spokesperson in the Presidential Office.
Another of Ma’s young aides, 35-year-old Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓), who lost a legislative election in Greater Tainan by a small margin, will take over as head of the KMT’s Organization and Development Division, which is responsible for election mobilization. Two more of Ma’s spokespersons, Yin Wei (殷瑋) and Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國), who are both under 30, will become KMT spokespersons.
However, the most urgent and important task at party level for Ma is to make the KMT “asset-free,” as he promised when he first took over as KMT chairman in 2005. The sale of the Central Investment Co, valued at more than NT$20 billion (US$672 million), remains stalled, and should be at the top of Ma and the KMT’s list in the new year.
In his victory speech, Ma vowed to dedicate himself fully during his second term and leave a legacy in Taiwan. Over the next four years, the public will examine his determination to use the talent in the new line-up to achieve that goal.
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