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Fri, Jan 14, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Finance Committee is for big players

CORRUPTION A recent scandal has highlighted the potential for conflicts of interest and misuse of power by members of the legislature's Finance Committee

By Lauren Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

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 (羅明才), Her Jyh-huei (何智輝) and Lin Ming-yi (林明義) and independent Hsieh Chang-chieh (謝章捷), who are alleged to be involved in a shady deal to force domestic banks to invest in their venture capital companies -- are all members of the Finance Committee.

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 (陳其邁) admitted that the tremendous power the Finance Committee gives to its members to serve their own interests is what makes it so popular with legislators.

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 (羅福助) and his son, KMT legislator Lo Ming-tsai, -- both members of the committee -- do not actually manage businesses themselves, they allegedly rely on their connections with organized crime, so few would dare to underestimate their influence on shaping policy.

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 (王令麟), a board member of the Rebar Corp (力霸集團) and Yang Wen-hsin (楊文欣), the son of the president of Ever-Fortune Corp (長億集團). That people which such connections are members of the committee only increases the possibility of conflicts of interest.

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