Dawn of a 'pragmatic' political era in Taiwan

Taiwan's newly appointed Premier William Lai Ching-te (centre) with his Cabinet during yesterday's inauguration.
Taiwan's newly appointed Premier William Lai Ching-te (centre) with his Cabinet during yesterday's inauguration.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

New Premier also vows to grow economy, look after the people

TAIPEI • Taiwan's new Premier William Lai Ching-te vowed yesterday to usher in a new political era that would be "down-to-earth and pragmatic".

He also pledged to work towards wooing greater investment to the self-ruled island, while sticking to the policies of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Mr Lai, formerly the mayor of the south-western city of Tainan, made the remarks at a Cabinet transition ceremony, following the resignation this week of his predecessor Lin Chuan, Reuters reported.

At the ceremony, the 57-year-old Mr Lai said his main task is to grow the economy, rather than to build political momentum before the island's next election, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported.

He also said his main responsibility is to build Taiwan, "expand the economy and look after the people", adding that his Cabinet would press on with reforms in areas ranging from the energy industry to labour, pensions and tax, while "eliminating obstacles for investment", Reuters reported.

He added that "these will have a pragmatic strategy and will be solved in a steadfast way".

There had been talk that Mr Lai's appointment was to shore up the falling public approval ratings of President Tsai Ing-wen's independence-leaning DPP before next year's nationwide local elections, in which it faces off against the China-friendly Kuomintang.

Local election results are seen as an indicator for the presidential election in 2020, said Reuters.

Ratings for President Tsai had fallen to below 30 per cent by last month, a survey by a private foundation shows, down from nearly 70 per cent soon after her landslide election victory last year.

Dissatisfaction with labour and pension reforms are seen to have weighed on Ms Tsai's ratings, sparking occasional protests.

The Cabinet reshuffle brought several new key appointments, though most of the other ministry- level positions stayed unchanged.

The financial supervisory commission has a new chief in Mr Wellington Koo, while acting economics minister Shen Jong-chin was confirmed in the role. A new vice-premier and secretary-general were also appointed to the Cabinet, or Executive Yuan, reported Reuters.

Mr Lai, a pro-independence advocate, is favoured in many DPP-affiliated polls to be a strong potential contender for the 2020 presidential election. He won a landslide re-election in 2014 in Tainan.

The Harvard-educated Premier is expected to take a cautious stance in the transition, as shown by his modest personnel changes, said analysts quoted by Reuters.

"Lai brings an effective administrative style, and will seek to keep the agenda on track," said associate professor Edward Yang at National Taiwan Normal University.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Dawn of a 'pragmatic' political era in Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe