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Sun, May 20, 2001 - Page 15 News List

One Year On: Politics - After fumbles, Cabinet tries to find its way

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The DPP-led Cabinet, ushering in its second year, will have to excell itself in the economic and financial fields in order to win back the public's confidence, political observers said.

"They [members of the Cabinet with economic and financial portfolios] may not be the best team, but they've been in operation for a year and understand the DPP government's policies well," DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said.

The economic downturn from which Taiwan is currently suffering has hobbled the DPP's first year in office. The Cabinet has not fully demonstrated to the public that it can take total control of the country's economic development since, as some DPP officials have argued, most Cabinet members who deal with financial and economic issues are former KMT officials. But Lee believed that overall the Cabinet is heading in the right direction.

Lee therefore ruled out the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle before the year-end elections, though he supported the idea of forming a coalition Cabinet after polling takes place.

When evaluating the Cabinet's performance for the past year, Lee stressed the importance of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) leadership, saying that "the premier should play the role of being the president's chief of staff, who is in charge of carrying out the government's policies under Chen's leadership."

Minister without portfolio, Chung Chin (鍾琴), who served as the Cabinet's spokeswoman when former premier Tang Fei (唐飛) was in office, added that the Cabinet has adjusted well after its initial "inexperienced phase." She expected that the Cabinet would perform better in its second year.

"But the Cabinet will still have to fine tune its policies to improve the interaction and communication between itself and the legislature," Chung said, stressing that past standoffs between the executive and legislative branches has triggered severe political instability.

Chang Chun-hsiung

Age: 64

Place of Birth: Kaohsiung

Experience: The defense lawyer of the "Kaohsiung Eight." Has served six terms as a DPP legislator. Secretary general to the president.Vice Premier

Successes: Makes inspection tours to major construction sites all over Taiwan. Launched the Cabinet's NT$810 billion national construction project. Loyal to President Chen Shui-bian

Failures: Scrapping of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Increasing unemployment rate and decreasing economic growth rate. Political standoff between the executive and legislative branches.

Grade: B-

The standoff intensified when Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) announced last October that he had unilaterally decided to scrap the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) without the legislature's consent. For this, Chang was branded "persona non grata" and kept out of all legislative functions for almost three months.

Lawmakers from opposition parties expressed their disappointment with the Cabinet's lack of respect for the rule of law over the past year.

"The DPP government's obvious attempts to challenge the majority-controlled legislature has had a negative impact on its rule," KMT Legislator Chen Hung-chi (陳鴻基) said.

Chen criticized the DPP government for being adept at shifting blame on to opposition parties by saying that "all its difficulties in office stem from the old KMT regime and its own failure to seize a majority of seats in the legislature."

He urged the Cabinet to learn from past mistakes and work out how to reach compromises when inter-party negotiations were involved.

In spite of the criticisms leveled at the Cabinet, the premier said he was very much satisfied with the Ministry of Justice's efforts to eradicate "black gold."

"For the past year, the Cabinet's efforts to crack down on black gold has earned the approval of the public," Chang said on Tuesday.

Echoing Chang's view, former premier Tang also said that of all the members of the Cabinet, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) had impressed him the most.

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