The latest Cabinet reshuffle retains top economic and finance officials in their posts. Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花), National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫), Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Thomas Huang (黃天牧) and Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) are all to remain. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who is to be sworn in as the new premier tomorrow, reportedly wanted them to complete unfinished tasks and maintain coherent policymaking.
This indicates that Tsai’s administration wants to formulate consistent and stable policies, reassure the business community and restore public confidence as the nation’s economy faces rising challenges this year. The DGBAS on Jan. 18 reported that Taiwan’s economy last quarter contracted 0.86 percent year-on-year, ending 26 straight quarters of annual growth, due to a sharp decline in exports. The downturn in external demand, including for semiconductors, dragged the nation’s GDP growth for last year to 2.43 percent, missing the government’s forecast of 3.06 percent and marking the slowest expansion in six years. The trend is likely to continue this quarter.
Nevertheless, the promotion of Chuang Tsui-yun (莊翠雲) to minister of finance from the deputy post — replacing Su Jain-rong (蘇建榮), who is returning to teaching at National Taipei University — came as a surprise to many. Previous finance ministers have mostly come from the fields of finance and taxation, while Chuang has a background in managing state-owned property. She is a graduate of National Chengchi University’s Department of Land Economics and worked in several positions at the National Property Administration for nearly three decades before taking the deputy finance minister’s office in 2016.
Chuang is also to become the agency’s third female minister, following Shirley Kuo (郭婉容), who served as minister from 1988 to 1990, and Kuo’s daughter, Christina Liu (劉憶如), who was minister for three months in 2012.
Chuang is known for promoting the auctioning of superficies rights for national properties and helping revitalize idle state-owned assets to boost the nation’s treasury, as well as her encouragement of private participation in national infrastructure projects through financing and tax benefits. Despite this experience, Chuang and the other ministers are likely to encounter more challenges than ever in the turbulent international environment that Taiwan is facing.
For instance, with the worsening of global demand due to high inflation and rapid monetary policy tightening by central banks, the government’s top priority in the short term should be to increase domestic demand and boost international travel.
Also, despite improved employment in the hospitality, food and beverage, transport and social work sectors, an essential task for new Cabinet members would be to assist low-income earners, small businesses and the manufacturing sector during the economic slowdown.
Other objectives are just as important, such as curbing speculation in the property market, ensuring fair wealth distribution, smoothing the transition to green energy, maintaining a steady pace toward net zero carbon emissions and joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The new Cabinet should address these issues with pragmatic, effective measures.
However, one daunting task facing Chen’s Cabinet is how to maintain national resilience and functional governance amid rising political uncertainties in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections early next year. Close collaboration between new and experienced ministers is certain to prove essential.
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