One of the unwritten truths of Taiwan politics is that the Legislative Yuan is the place where big interests are played out; and the Finance Committee is the center of this wheeling and dealing. This fact was underlined by accusation made against members of the committee yesterday.
With such a reputation, it should come as no surprise that four lawmakers -- including the KMT's Lo Ming-tsai (
Looking back to the beginning of the current session last September, both KMT and DPP political heavyweights managed to paralyze legislative procedures for over a month, as they fought over a single contested seat on the powerful committee, where finance-related laws are formulated, debated and passed.
The deadlock resulted from the fact that too many legislators sought seats on the committee -- 62 lawmakers registered for 21 available seats. As a result, candidates for the committee were forced to draw lots.
The reason behind the Finance Committee's popularity is evident for critics, who say it serves the personal interests of its own members, many of whom are business figures. But the critics also point out that it is a strong counteractive force against Taiwan's democratic development.
One anonymous finance ministry official said that members of the Finance Committee wield a powerful weapon in that if state-run banks, or the finance ministry decline to act according to their requests, they can cut their budgets in return.
Even more disturbing, the official said, was that committee members could demand that banks pour money in their companies, or ask the banks to lend to them at low interest rates.
DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (
Chen added that during this session there are several bills in the works that could have huge potential for conflict-of-interest among lawmakers, including the so-called "trust law," amendments to the gambling article in the Welfare Lottery Law, the Insurance Law and the Land Tax Law.
Critics said the passage of such bills would inevitably help redistribute wealth. Even though independent legislator Lo Fu-chu (
Both Los yesterday denied media reports claiming they have been putting undue pressure on banks to invest in venture capital companies.
Nevertheless, they have already created a precedent for the Legislative Yuan, being the first father-son partnership on the Finance Committee.
On several occasions, Lo Fu-chu has coached his son on the rules of procedure while chairing the Finance Committee.
Reviewing the list of Finance Committee members , most of the KMT legislators actually own or run finance-related business themselves -- figures such as Gary Wang (
Her Jyh-huei (
Her is currently the vice president of Shin Shin Co Ltd, (欣欣大眾), while his wife, Wang Su-yun (王素筠) a former legislator herself, now serves as the president of Chia Hsun Livestock Co Ltd (嘉畜), another Hualon-associated firm.
With such a line-up, critics say it is hardly surprising that the legislature's Finance Committee has been dubbed a "playground for conglomerates."
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