Chen says Cabinet has no veto over council policies

The China Post staff and agencies

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said the Cabinet has no right to veto the decisions his brainchild economic advisory council makes. He also asked the Cabinet to implement to the full whatever his economic advisers suggest.

The president’s remarks came as he was speaking to his advisers at a preparatory meeting preceding the council’s meeting next month. The remarks were also seen as an attempt to convince the public of his resolution about spurring the economy amid doubts as to whether the government will pay due and full respect to the council’s decisions.

“Unless the officials can convince all the council members to change their mind, they have to accept the council’s decisions,” Chen said in his opening remarks.

The overriding principle, he said, is aimed at making the majority opinion of the council the common opinion of the government. “This is very important,” said Chen, whose government has come under criticism for failing to effectively revive the sagging economy and sinking public confidence in it. Lee Cheng-chung of the opposition Kuomintang said Chen’s promise marks a good opening for the council, but hopes that the government will carry out the promise thoroughly.

But Chang Hsian yao, an official with the opposition People First Party, said: “We are still skeptical about the promise made by the president.”

The participants of the council, economists, business leaders and government officials, will hold discussions from Sunday to August 18. A full session meeting is slated for August 24-26, during which conclusions will be presented.

Chen and his minority government have been under intense pressure to bolster Taiwan’s competitive edge amid capital flight and investment in mainland China as well as falling stock prices and a faltering currency.

“As you may be aware, the root cause of Taiwan’s economic problems is the downturn in international economies, compounded by domestic political and economic structural flaws,” Chen said.

He was referring to persistent rows between his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition parties which dominate parliament.

The pro-independence DPP has repeatedly blamed the opposition for blocking attempts to engage in reforms since it seized power last year, ending the KMT’s 51-year grip on power.

This time, the government has seized the opportunity to woo the opposition into jointly rescuing the economy — a task the opposition cannot reject without risking public condemnation.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said reviving the economy is no easy task and will takes cooperation between the ruling party and the opposition to success.

During the upcoming meeting, the question of how to address the groundswell of calls for easing cross-strait trade and investment policies is expected to take the front seat.

The China Times Express reported yesterday that the Mainland Affairs Council plans to introduce transitional measures until the time is ripe for full-fledged direct transport, commercial and postal links.

Taiwan currently bans the “Big 3” links but has allowed two of its offshore islands to engage in “mini three links” with the mainland starting this year.

According to the paper, the council may also immediately open the island for mainland tourists after Beijing works out needed regulations to deal with issues such as repatriation of mainland people.