Reshuffle the Cabinet: Create an Effective Team
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 11, 2010
Mayoral elections for the five directly administered municipalities will be held at the end of the year. The KMT will complete its nomination process in May. Executive Yuan Vice President Eric Chu will enter the Xinbei City mayoral race, necessitating a cabinet reshuffle. Wu Den-yih stepped in as premier last September admidst a political crisis. The cabinet was then reshuffled one job at a time. Now however is a good time to review the cabinet's record and make personnel changes that will increase the effectiveness of cabinet as a team.
President Ma and DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen recently debated ECFA. The Committee for Economic Planning and Development immediately recommended responses to changes in the global economic picture and the signing of ECFA. It recommended drawing up a 10 year plan for the nation's future. It hopes to improve the nation's competitiveness. As one can imagine such plans require a strong administrative team. Socially it must deal with low birth rates, an aging population, inadequate care for the aged, and growing unemployment. Environmentally it must conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint. These require green manufacturing and green job strategies. These are not goals that bureaucrats who go purely by the book can hope to achieve.
Last year Wu Dun-yi was appointed premier. The Ma administration had barely recovered from the global financial crisis when Typhoon Morakot struck. Premier Wu was in no position to throw open the doors to new appointees. He had to retain many original Ma/Liu team members. The administration's setback made it difficult to attract talent. Wu Dun-yi was forced to deal with this embarrassing situation. Cabinet appointees failed to meet outside expectations. They failed to impress the public. They failed even to form anything that could properly be termed a team. New cabinet members may stay on, or they may leave. But most are unfamilar with Premier Wu's political policies and political style. Over the past half year, a number of controversies and incidents have arisen, mostly for this reason.
When Premier Wu was interviewed recently, he praised the performance of the cabinet as "not bad overall." He said if anything was wrong with the cabinet, it was inadequate horizontal coordination. Some cabinet members came up short. His remarks were subtle. Put plainly, what he said was that the team lacked team awareness and overall effectiveness. Premier Wu praised Director of Health Yang Chi-liang, who proposed raising health insurance premiums, as "loyal and righteous." He praised Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng, who provoked controversy by demanding the abolition of the death penalty as "heroic and intense." As we can see, Premier Wu has abundant political experience. He can tolerate dissent. He must however demand that cabinet members "keep the peoples' hopes aspirations close to their hearts."
Instead of asking cabinet members close to Premier Wu to be patient, it would be better to ask them to "enhance their capabilities." Therefore no government official can complain that the premier is too domineering and denying them an opportunity to shine. Instead, they must ask why have the agencies they head become mute. There is no lack of future stars among current KMT cabinet members. They include individuals with squeaky clean images and political family heirs. But most of them become invisible upon accepting appointments as agency heads. CEPD Chief Chen Tian-chi, a Premier Liu era appointee, was a long time advocate for the Executive Yuan's policies. But what has he advocated on behalf of the Council for Economic Planning and Development? Carbon reduction is currently a hot issue. Does the CEPD have any concrete plans for carbon reduction?
Premier Wu is fully capable of defending his policies. But Premier Wu is only one person. He can speak out in the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, or for two or three minutes when the media collars him in the street. At other times he must be responsible for policy planning and policy implementation. He cannot stand on the front lines explaining the administration's policy details.
The public knows that Premier Wu is is politically isolated. He has long experience in party and government affairs. But he has never had his own followers or even his own team. The current cabinet consists of number of different elements. It includes former members of Ma Ying-jeou's staff when he was Taipei Mayor. It includes former KMT Think Tank heads from when the party was out of power. It includes a number of professionals from the private sector. Minor changes to the cabinet were made following Typhoon Morakot, reducing the percentage of scholars and experts in the Cabinet and increasing the role of the KMT Think Tank. But the Kuomintang was out of power for eight years. Heads of the KMT Think Tank are all political appointees from when the party was still in power. They may be capable, but they defer to their elders. Even those who refuse to defer to their elders, must train talent for the government and the nation. Former members of Ma Ying-jeou's mayoral staff include some who are qualified to serve at the central government level, and some who are not. After two years, it should be clear who's who. We trust President Ma will not insist on retaining those not qualified just for old times sake.
The current reshuffling will impact officials as high as Yuan vice presidents. The public expects Yuan vice presidents to play an important role in reinvigorating the financial sector. Premier Wu himself is highly capable politically. What he needs is assistance from financial professionals. This will increase public support for the administration. Changes in minor cabinet officials are urgent. The Ma administration has been in office for two years. Its approval rating has plummeted from its zenith to its nadir. The Ma administration can no longer drag its feet. Forget the five year end mayoral elections for directly administered muncipalities. Forget the 2019 presidential election. Think only of how to create a forceful and effective team that can get things done and leave behind a legacy of achievements for the nation and society.