Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

For our US envoy, it's all about the mission, not money

PUBLIC SECTOR The nation's ambassador to Chad may make more money, but David Lee isn't worried, saying he's not in it for the salary

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taiwan Representative to the US David Lee (李大維), the nation's most important envoy, said he holds no grudges that his salary is well below the man who represents Taiwan in the African nation of Chad, as well as those of top diplomats to a number of other countries.

The "sense of mission," rather than the pay, defines the job, Lee said.

"The thing is that we are not in the private sector," Lee told the Taipei Times. "In the private sector, you receive a salary according to your responsibility. We just work for the sense of mission."

Lee was responding to a question on complaints made in Taipei on Thursday by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) about the high salary of many diplomats. He said some were being paid so much because they were political appointees with links to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Lee, a career diplomat, has spent most of his time as a foreign policy professional under KMT rule, although he was appointed to his present post by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). He previously served as envoy to the EU in Brussels, and is one of Taiwan's most respected diplomats.

Chiang singled out the ambassador to Chad, Cheng Shin (鄭欣), who is the nation's highest-paid diplomat at NT$567,996 (US$17,740) per month -- a salary higher than the president's NT$462,300.

Chiang also said that the envoys to Japan, South Korea and Germany make well over NT$400,000 a month.

In contrast, Lee makes only NT$398,046 (US$12,431) a month, a figure that has not changed since he took over the Washington posting on July 23, 2004, according to the Foreign Ministry.

This, despite a work schedule that keeps him going, according to his own estimate, for 80 to 90 hours a week, and despite being the key intermediary for the nation's most crucial international relationship.

In comparison, Chen Shin in his Chadian posting must wrestle daily with the less-than-globally-compelling vacillations in N'Djamena-Taipei relations.

But Lee does not quarrel with the current system.

"Anyone who comes here must be one who has a sense of mission to be in this job, because what you do in Washington really matters a great deal to the country," he said.

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