Taiwan names China Airlines chairman as minister

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan on Sunday appointed the chairman of China Airlines as the new economic affairs minister as part of a dramatic cabinet reshuffle to tackle the sluggish economy, officials said.

Chang Chia-chu will succeed Shih Yen-shiang, the cabinet said in a statement. Shih has come under fire for a controversial hike in domestic oil and utility fees last year.

"Mr Chang has served as the chief executive in private enterprises and joined the government sector before," the statement said, referring to Chang's previous experience as chairman of the island's China Steel Corp and as a deputy transport minister.

It described Chang as a "innovative reformer" who enabled the steel company to comfortably survive the 2008 global economic crisis.

The cabinet also appointed minister without portfolio Kuan Chung-ming as chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the island's top economic planning body. Kuan will replace Yin Chi-ming.

The announcement came after Premier Sean Chen said Friday he had stepped down for health reasons, to be succeeded by his deputy Jiang Yi-huah, 53, a scholar-turned-politician and a former interior minister.

Chen's departure came as Taiwan's economy grew at just 1.25 per cent in 2012 from a year ago, the slowest pace in three years due to shrinking exports.

Chen, who previously headed the Financial Supervisory Commission, the main industry regulator, had a tense term since taking office as premier in early 2012.

His cabinet frequently came under attack over the sluggish economy and other controversial policies, with the opposition repeatedly demanding his resignation.

Last year, Chen survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote - only the second in Taiwan's history - over what opposition lawmakers deemed as his cabinet's failure to curb rising unemployment and inflation.

Under Taiwan's political system the premier heads the cabinet and is appointed by the president.

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