Sun, Dec 01, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Newsmakers: Finance minister steps into hot seat

RIGID Lin Chuan has a reputation for being outspoken and while many of his colleagues think he is perfect for the job, some critics think that he will accomplish little

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

"He was authorized to bring his fiscal expertise into full play without having to sacrifice professionalism or make political compromises in that [his former] position," Tseng said.

Equipped with solid professionalism in public finance, taxation and insights into the stock market, Lin, who has an economics Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, is widely believed to be qualified for the new job.

Tseng believes Lin will gradually realize his ideal of decentralizing power and budgets, in accordance with the spirit of autonomy in local government, after taking office tomorrow.

But Lin's lack of experience in the nation's banking sector has worried market watchers who would like to see him address the nation's No. 1 financial issue -- banking reform and the cleanup of non-performing loans, estimated at NT$1.43 trillion as of September.

"I doubt Lin will play a leading role in taking the initiative to carry out banking reform," said a Taipei-based multinational investment bank CEO, who requested anonymity.

But Tseng said money and banking are related to economics and Lin should soon be on the right track.

Actually, in June 1996, Lin successfully dealt with a bank run on the Sungshan Farmers' Association in Taipei. He demonstrated his ability to dismiss a small-scale crisis by disclosing the association's banking information to earn back depositors' confidence within two days.

Tseng, however, expressed concern whether Lin -- a "smart, yet stubborn" scholar -- will easily adapt himself to the new position, which requires highly polished political skills to handle pressure from various interest groups.

"He is sure to face a fickle policy-making environment, where he may have to make compromises or trigger conflicts while trying to emphasize professionalism," Tseng said in the hopes that the president -- the real policy-maker behind the scene -- will fully support and allow him to make breakthroughs.

Keeping his private life very low profile, Lin's second marriage with his secretary in September, came as a big surprise even to many of his colleagues, who said that Lin leads a very simple, and sometimes boring life. His two biggest dreams in life, however, are to help realize a true municipalism and found a liberal arts college in Taiwan.

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