ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Economy to be top priority for Taiwan's new Cabinet
Publication Date : 18-02-2013
The new Cabinet to be sworn in this morning has set “economic stimulus” as its top priority, although the new administrative team headed by Premier-designate Jiang Yi-huah will have its hands full tackling multiple thorny domestic and overseas issues.
Incoming Premier Jiang, Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo, and 39 other senior officials of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) will be sworn in by President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office.
Jiang will then head to the Executive Yuan where outgoing Premier Sean Chen will hand over the reins to him in a changeover ceremony to be presided by Vice President Wu Den-yi.
He is expected to hold his first Cabinet meeting the same day.
Key members of the new Cabinet lineup also include incoming Executive Yuan Secretary General Chen Wei-jen, Minister of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) Yeh Kuang-shih, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch, and head of the Council for Economic Planning and Development Kuan Chung-ming.
There will be no traditional honeymoon for the new Cabinet since it will be confronted by several pressing challenges at home and overseas.
Jiang, former vice premier, was known to have kept a busy working schedule during the nine-day Lunar New Year holidays to coordinate priority policies.
The new Cabinet has designated boosting the economy as its top priority, and will look to push public construction projects to induce investments and economic activities amid an international slowdown and rising energy costs.
Vice Premier Mao, the former MOTC minister, and Yeh, the new MOTC chief, will play the crucial role of spurring public investments and stimulating domestic consumption to induce a faster economic recovery.
The Taoyuan aeropolis project connected to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the electrification of the railway system on the East Coast, the establishment of free economic zones and the completion of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be among the major public investment projects.
The year 2013 will mark a crucial year for the nuclear plant, which is still under construction.
State-run utility Taiwan Power Company, which builds and runs the power plant, is scheduled to apply to the Atomic Energy Council in February 2014 so it may load fuel rods into the plant's first reactor in July 2014 and begin commercial operations in October 2015.
According to people familiar with the issue, Ma's goal to eventually phase out nuclear energy remains unchanged. The new nuclear power plant will only begin operations after proving itself safe to operate.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and environmental protection groups in Taiwan are expected to step up obstruction to the project following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 and heightened safety awareness in Taiwan.
Other challenges for the new Cabinet will include the pension reforms and the long-stalled talks between Taiwan and the US on the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The two sides are expected to resume talks on TIFA next month.
The TIFA talks will be further complicated by US pressure to ship pork to the Taiwan market while the DPP is organising massive protests from domestic pig raisers and farmers.
Concerning Taiwan's relations with mainland China, Jiang and other officials will have to speed up follow-up negotiations related to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement to secure further product and service pacts, with pressure coming from the business community.