The New Cabinet Heralds a Post-ECFA Era
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 19, 2010
It is the eve of the second anniversary of President Ma's inauguration. The cabinet is being reshuffled because Vice Premier Chu Li-lun is running for Xinbei City Mayor. So far only the chairmen of the CEPD and the FSC have been redeployed. The overall structure of the cabinet will remain the same. Three new cabinet members who were promoted however have financial and economic backgrounds. This includes Sean Chen, incoming Vice Premier. This is obviously related to ECFA, the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that will be signed in June.
When Sean Chen was at the FSC, he was the prime mover behind the Cross-Strait Financial Supervision Memorandum of Understanding. He is familiar with cross-Strait affairs. He has now been kicked upstairs, charged with integrating and coordinating the financial and economic subcabinet. He has deft management skills and a cool head. He is bold in the face of challenges, and does not get bogged down in technicalities. The opposition DPP is boycotting ECFA with all its might, attempting to incite panic. Meanwhile Beijing is watching Taipei like a hawk. Every step is riddled with danger. If a traditional paint by the numbers bureaucrat were in charge, he would be overwhelmed. But this is precisely the kind of battlefield on which Sean Chen shines. Expect the unfavorable currents before us to subside.
The Chairman of the CEPD has been changed. The nominee announced her appointment "on her own initiative." Former Chairman Tsai Hsun-hsung is modest and austere. A sudden unprovoked "war between two women" erupted, making waves and raising eyebrows. The public knows that for the past several decades the CEPD has been responsible for planning, communications, and coordination. It truly is the heart of a financial subcabinet. If it receives recognition and full support from higher ups, its effectiveness will be unparalled. Its effectiveness however, can create problems as well as solve them. For example, when Hau Pei-tsun was premier, President Lee Teng-hui and Premier Hau trusted CEPD Chairman Kuo Wan-jung implicitly. In response to the new administration's expectations, she established a "Six-Year Economic Reconstruction Plan." The most concrete example was her heroic mobilization of national resources and use of large public construction loans. Thousands of large and small projects remain uncompleted. Her achievements cannot compare with the small scale "Ten Major Construction Projects." Squandering hard-earned tax dollars and misusing national resources left behind a bottomless well of red ink that still haunts us.
Therefore when Chairman Kuo's protege Christina Liu took over the same position 20 years later, it made for a great story. We must learn lessons from these events, and avoid making the same mistakes. Liu Yi-ju is unofficially slated to take over as Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development. She has a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. Her professionalism is probably not at issue. She has long believed in a free economy. She respects the market mechanism. She has been sharply critical of improper government intervention in the marketplace. Under her guidance the Council for Economic Planning and Development will probably have a very different face.
This does not mean that the CEPD can rule by doing nothing, allowing the market to go its own way completely. During normal times, the CEPD must anticipate economic trends, remedy market failures in a timely manner, improve the economic environment, and allow the individual full opportunity for development. Our economy is moving away from a long term Closed Door Policy and towards openness and freedom. Cross-Strait trade and economic relations, once bound hand and foot, have now had the doors thrown open. At this critical juncture, the CEPD is seeking the best way to open up our economy. It is attempting to eliminate obstacles in our way, and help the negotiating team obtain the most favorable conditions. It must seize the initiative. The two sides have yet to eliminate tariffs. Many SMEs have potential advantages. With money and talent, their core competitiveness can be given leg up, helping them to thrive and grow. By opening up in advance, the ordinary citizen can avoid being made obsolete. He can get a jump on the vast mainland hinterlands and marketplace, transforming it into a solid foundation for Taiwan's economic development. Meanwhile, by building "special economic zones" he can obtain an advance peace dividend. This will bring people from afar, accelerating the pace of economic growth, and herald the arrival of a new Post-ECFA Era.
In fact during DPP Chairman Tsai's current term, the CEPD took upon itself to formulate a strategy for a "Golden Decade." Now dynamic new advocates of such a strategy are in office. Among them is a Vice Premier even more familiar with cross-Strait affairs. Planning for a Golden Decade should be even more feasible and meet with even less resistance. This may make up for the Ma administration's failure to offer a vision when first assuming office.
The crux of the problem behind the Ma administration's disappointing performance over the past two years was not the premier. Nor was it members of the cabinet. It was President Ma's own stumbling about as he learned from his mistakes. Now it appears that considerable progress has been made. The quality of his administration's decision-making has improved. He is more professional and mature in his use of talent. As long as he shows greater respect for professionalism, delegates authority, speaks and acts with caution, we anticipate better from him.
2010.05.19 02:40 am