New Cabinet: From Sean Chen to Lee Hong-yuan
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 12, 2011
Summary: Political appointees on Taiwan have long been subject to political interference and the bureaucratization of the administrative process. Sean Chen, Lee Hong-yuan, and others, represent the emergence of a new breed of political appointee, Their professionalism and courage have provided the cabinet with new drive. The cabinet needs more courageous and prudent cabinet officials, We hope such people will be given more room to develop.
Full Text below:
Under Vice Premier Sean Chen's leadership, yesterday government bonds caught fire. Using a paltry 10 billion NT, Chen boosted the index 400 points. This lifted Taiwan stocks out of the global recession. The timing, technique, and results, prove that his move was a success, Sean Chen's reputation for expertise and professionalism is well-deserved.
Heavy handed government intervention has been much too common on Taiwan. Shrewdly capable political appointees such as Sean Chen are rare. Much more common are fence-sitters and Yes Men. Power has shifted back and forth between the Blue Camp and the Green Camp. During the Chen Shui-bian era, cabinet reshuffles were routine. Political appointees were treated like domestics. Political affiliation trumped all. Professionalism was swept away. The Ma administration was unimaginative in its political appointments. It could not decide whether to trust technocrats or academics. Cabinet members were often unclear about the administration's policy direction. Sean Chen however, was a cabinet official capable of both offense and defense. A political appointee able to assume responsibility during a crisis is rare indeed.
Compared to other financial and economic experts in the cabinet, Sean Chen and Central Bank President Perng Huai-nan are more trusted by the public. They are skilled professionals who respect the line between public and private, and who have an easy manner about them. Their reputations are well deserved and were earned over time. Therefore, when they are ordered into battle during a crisis, they have a calming effect. Take the recent stock market crash for example, The TAIEX was dragged down by international panic inspired by the US debt crisis. Taiwan's economic fundamentals are not a problem. But people felt the heat. President Ma's repeated reassurances rang hollow. Sean Chen used government bonds as leverage. He called on banks and corporations holding stocks to support the market. With minimal effort, he stopped the bleeding, He bolstered the confidence of 8 million investors.
The government intervenes in the stock market from time to time, But an intervention as adroit as this is rare. Consider Sean Chen's approach. He did not bang the drums. He did not threaten businesses. He did not disseminate superfluous public propaganda. He quietly noted the underlying trend, He locked onto his target. He waited for the opportunity to strike, Sure enough, his aim was true, He prevented foreign vultures from swooping in. Amidst this international disaster, a shrewd and courageous political appointee successfully dodged a stock market crisis, He did not even need to make use of the national security funds. He has earned our respect.
Besides Sean Chen, a few other political appointees have caught the public eye. The most notable example, is Lee Hong-yuan, who joined the cabinet this spring as Chairman of the Council of Public Works. Immediately upon taking office, he reviewed and canceled unnecessary public construction. He canceled 50 boondoggles in two months. These projects were destined for perpetually unoccupied "Mosquito Hall" status. In an even more proactive move, he launched a plan to remedy land subsidence in the Yunlin and Chaiyi regions. He intends to seal one thousand wells within the decade, in order to prevent the continued subsidence of the high-speed railway, and for that matter, the entire western half of the island.
Interestingly enough, work will conclude on New Year's Day next year. Lee Hong-yuan was originally a fill-in. But for this very reason, he has been able to make full use of his water resources and engineering expertise, He has given new meaning to the job description. Unlike past chairmen, he need fuss over the details or quality of public works. Instead, he can view these projects from a more elevated perspective, and reconsider their necessity, He can confront the land management crisis from the perspective of long term sustainability. The pressure of his short term, has paradoxically enabled him to transcend the constraints of his position. It has enabled him to tackle more urgent problems that confront the nation.
Bureaucratic inertia is inherent in the government's division of labor. Normally, no government agency would take the initiative to highlight problems such as "mosquito halls" and regional subsidence, let alone propose improvements. Normally, by the time a problem becomes known, it is invariably too late. Lee Hong-yuan took the initiative to study the issue. He even provided solutions to each problem. Such courageous political appointees have established a new paradigm. They have provided the cabinet with forward momentum. Lee Hong-yuan's term may be over in only 275 days. But the contribution he has made far exceeds those who merely sit at their desk reviewing documents.
The Executive Yuan has been discussing the tax burden and 12-year compulsory education. Cabinet members have offered different views on these subjects. This is a good sign. From one perspective, the agencies in charge must be able to withstand internal challenges. Only then can they suggest better policies to the public. From another perspective, cabinet members with different professional backgrounds challenging each other, enables them to be less egocentric in their thinking, to learn from each and to think more innovatively. Stirring things up within the cabinet may help reinvigorate it, and win it greater public approval. Premier Wu should encourage these development. He must not deliberately suppress them.
Political appointees on Taiwan have long been subject to political interference and the bureaucratization of the administrative process. Sean Chen, Lee Hong-yuan, and others, represent the emergence of a new breed of political appointee, Their professionalism and courage have provided the cabinet with new drive. The cabinet needs more courageous and prudent cabinet officials, We hope such people will be given more room to develop.
2011.08.12 03:16 am