Presidential Office to launch internship program

The China Post staff

The Presidential Office is set to launch an internship program similar to that of the U.S.’ White House, a local media report said yesterday. The United Daily Evening News reported that a group of youths proposed the idea of recruiting volunteers to work in the central and local governments to President Chen Shui-bian back in March. Chen apparently was intrigued by the proposal, and instructed Chen Shih-meng, secretary-general of the Presidential Office, to initiate the program. The report went on to say that in the initial plan, participants of the “youth program” would be sent to regional governments for volunteer services. However, the plan was later dropped in favor of a more feasible presidential office internship program. Each of the 25 interns will be paid a monthly salary of NT$45,000 and the funding will come from corporate donations, the report said. However, it was also reported that some of the Presidential Office staff were skeptical of the internship program, as it would bypass the regular testing and recruitment system for public employees. They were also concerned that the young trainees might not be qualified to deal with confidential affairs inside the office. Some opposition lawmakers were quoted as saying that the internship plan was merely a campaign tool to lure youths into voting for Chen in his 2004 reelection bid. Others suggested that the program be funded by the government instead of corporations. But the report cautioned the Presidential Office to carefully carry out the proposal to inject new blood into the government employee system, citing that current reforms have caused a retirement wave among civil servants who fear fewer benefits and less job security.

It also advised Chen to pay attention to cultural differences in its adaptation of the program, saying that Chen should make efforts to placate old employees while recruiting young talents. The internship system is said to be largely based on the White House Internship Program, which was implemented in 1977. One of the most famous interns to come out of the White House is Chinese American Elaine Chao, who currently serves as labor secretary. On the other end of the spectrum is the infamous White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Her sexual affair with ex-president Bill Clinton grabbed national and international headlines.