Woody Duh to hit the ground running at MOEA
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-11 07:16 PM
Newly-installed Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh has likened himself to the proverbial frog in a pot of water on a hot plate, with one slight twist. Duh notes that he is being plopped into water that is already uncomfortably warm. Running with the metaphor, he warns, "The temperature of the water in Taiwan is already very high."

Duh notes that as head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) he will be tasked with the job of implementing changes that will enable Taiwan to compete fairly in the international industrial structure adjustment. This will include developing new added-value products while boosting support for the island’s already-existing products, plus negotiating bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) while gaining entry to regional trade groups in the Asia-Pacific area.

Duh also likens himself to Huang Bamei, a woman from the Shanghai area who led locals and KMT irregulars in fighting the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War and was noted for taking on Japanese troops with a pistol in each hand. Duh notes that he is "hefting my guns and going into battle," saying that he looks forward to continuing to work hard with his colleagues in coming struggles.

Duh has disclosed that the MOEA plans to launch a three-month project to carry out a comprehensive inventory of underground industrial pipelines in the Kaohsiung area. On Thursday Vice minister Shen Jong-chin will travel south with a team of scholars and experts to work with the local government to initiate the project with a two-day check of the current situation in Kaohsiung, with subsequent efforts to focus on a different company each week. The investigation will determine whether each operator is following systematic, standardized procedures in its operations regarding the shipment and transmission of its petrochemical products. They will look for pipeline maintenance and testing plans, inspection procedures and reports for pipelines and other relevant actions, and they will follow up meetings with operators by conducting on-the-spot checks in the field.

Duh has declined to give specifics on whether the ministry will seek to implement replacement of old petrochemical pipelines or whether it will seek to develop a completely different route and close down the existing system of buried pipelines. He is also reserving judgment on the possibility of relocating many of the industry’s components to a petrochemical park somewhere in the Kaohsiung area. He says the ministry will draw up approaches to be followed in the short, medium and long run, with the highest priority on short-term safety as Kaohsiung seeks to recover from the damage caused by the blasts July 31 and looks for solutions to long-overlooked problems.

Turning to future plans for economic development in Taiwan, Duh again refers to the frog in hot water metaphor, seeing Taiwan as the frog and saying that too many people have been complacent or have put off taking action until the last moment. He says there is a real need for alertness and urgency in looking at the challenges facing Taiwan.

Duh acknowledges that he is taking on an extremely tough job as Minister of Economic Affairs. He emphasizes that the position is one which transcends the differences between ruling and opposition parties that have divided the nation, noting that in the face of international competition such domestic disagreements only serve to slow the pace of progress, something that Taiwan cannot afford when other countries are moving fast.

Duh notes that the first step in putting Taiwan on the road to economic growth will be bringing about a substantial restructuring of the island’s industries. At the same time the ministry must work to ensure that Taiwan will be allowed to compete fairly in the international market. If Taiwan ends up facing a difference of 5 to10% in trade tariffs with other nations, he says, it will create a tremendous hurdle for local industries in competing with other nations in the region.

Duh also points to problems with communications and understanding that have stymied efforts to improve the nation’s efficiency and competitiveness. He notes that Taiwan now faces a very difficult period in governance. Party politics has drifted away from its original purpose in providing a system in which different segments of society can interact through mutual supervision and support. The end result of the bi-partisan process, he notes, should be agreement on action.

The administration will provide explanations and ideas in hopes that legislators will do their part by working to emphasize economic priorities and downplay political priorities, says Duh. He knows that he will face criticism and opposition, he says, and pledges to listen carefully and study the viewpoints of others to ensure better communications on all sides in the future.

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