Thu, Mar 21, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Tsung quits post after 48 woeful days

STEPPING DOWN Having promised to make the economy take off within two years, the minister of economic affairs instead has flown the coup after not even two months on the job

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Christine Tsung (宗才怡) was replaced last night as minister of economic affairs by the seasoned Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) after tendering her resignation a mere 48 days into her term -- proving correct many critics who had said she wasn't up to the job.

In a written statement, Tsung said she felt like a "rabbit that had mistakenly stumbled into the jungle without any knowledge of the political traps that lay all around."

Tsung, 54, who had skipped work for the past two days due to what was described as a bad cold, expressed hope that her resignation would bring the "raging political flames under control ... and bring calm back to the Cabinet."

Premier Yu Shyi-kun, after failing to persuade her to stay, wasted no time in appointing 60-year-old Lin, vice minister of economic affairs, to the post late last night.

Lin, who has served in the ministry 36 years, previously was the director-general of the Board of Foreign Trade before being promoted to vice minister.

Observers speculated that the government -- having been burned once by appointing a political outsider -- decided it was safer to go with a tried and true bureaucrat.

"The government probably will have to find a seasoned bureaucrat either within the system, from state-run companies or from within the ministry itself," said Chen Tien-chi (陳添枝) an economist at National Taiwan University, before Lin's appointment. "Given the political situation now, that's probably the better solution."

A senior economics official agreed, saying that if the ruling party went with another wild-card choice, the ministry -- and indeed the country, would be subjected to a re-run of the Christine Tsung experience.

Lin Yi-fun 林義夫

*Age 60, born in Taipei

*2000 promoted to Political Vice Minister of Economic Affairs

*1997 appointed Administrative Vice Minister of Economic Affairs

*1995 to 1997 served as director-general of Board of Foreign Trade and deputy director-general from 1990-1995

*1973 Joined economics ministry as a commerce specialist in Taiwan's representative office in Manila

*1965 graduated of National Chengchi University with a degree in accounting statistics

Graphic: TT

In her resignation letter, Tsung claimed to have "passion, background and confidence in my professional leadership ability, but the language of politics and the political culture will forever be obstacles for me."

However, such claims appear weak considering the short time she attempted to stick it out. Indeed, upon taking up the position, Tsung, who had stepped down as president of China Airlines Co (華航), boasted that she would make the economy "take off" within two years.

But now Tsung is taking flight, scampering away from a job critics said -- and now Tsung has indisputably proven -- she was ill-equipped to handle and had won only after currying favor with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

According to one senior ministry insider, Tsung couldn't even manage to get past the initial steps of establishing an efficient office that would usually precede the more vital task of familiarizing herself with and then utilizing the vast experience of the three vice ministers.

Tsung, Taiwan's first female economic's minister, last week fired her long-time personal secretary and replaced her with government insider Chen Wei-ti (陳韋迪), who then resigned this week over a dispute regarding his status and use of ministry vehicles.

Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤), vice speaker of the Legislative Yuan, also said Tsung had erred by not gaining a quicker understanding of the job and the economy from ministry officials. "Economic officials are well trained ... Tsung should have taken advantage of her deputies," Chiang said.

Tsung's inexperience became plainly evident during her appearances at the Legislative Yuan, where opposition lawmakers reportedly sent her in tears to the ladies room with scathing criticism of her ability after she failed to answer basic questions.

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