Mon, Jun 07, 2010 - Page 12 News List

NEWSMAKER: The rise of new CEPD head Christina Liu

MOM’S SHADOWShe comes from a family with strong political connections and has good credentials, but lawmakers doubt she has the interpersonal skills to do the job

By Ted Yang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairwoman Christina Liu addresses the legislature last Monday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Her mother was Taiwan’s first female minister of finance, nicknamed the “Iron Lady” by the media for her staunch support for the reinstatement of the security income tax, despite a groundswell of opposition in the late 1980s. Her father was a professor of political science at National Taiwan University (NTU) and an authority on the Constitution.

With such a solid family background in politics and academia, 55-year-old economist and professor Christina Liu (劉憶如) has received wide media coverage since her appointment as the head of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) in a minor Cabinet shakeup last month.

Her tough-talking rhetoric and eloquence have inevitably led the media to compare her with her strong-willed mother, who headed the council two decades ago, and to assert that she is set to carry on her mother’s political legacy.

“A mother precedes her daughter [as CEPD chair]. Liu certainly cannot be outperformed by her mother,” Minister without Portfolio Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said during a handover ceremony for the chairmanship on May 20.

Armed with a doctorate degree in economics from the University of Chicago, Liu has taught at many prestigious schools at home and abroad, published scores of papers in internationally renowned journals and has worked at the Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd and Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控).

Liu is also no stranger to the local political landscape and served as a legislator-at-large representing the People First Party (PFP) between 2002 and 2008. She is said to have played a key role behind the scenes helping President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) outperform his rival, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), during last month’s televised debate on the signing of a contentious economic agreement with China.

However, her close affiliation to enterprise and poor interpersonal relationships have elicited much criticism from legislators across party lines, casting doubt on her credentials to act as CEPD chief.

DPP Legislator Yu John-dow (余政道) once accused Liu of a potential conflict of interest with her government position because her husband, Simon Dzeng (曾垂紀), is executive vice president of China Development Financial Holdings Co (中華開發金控).

On May 24, Liu confirmed to local media that she and Dzeng had filed for divorce, but said the two were still good friends.

Liu’s reputation as a political loner has also raised concerns about her ability to coordinate various government agencies as the CEPD is the financial core of the Cabinet that helps formulate policies to promote economic development.

Addressing the importance of interpersonal skills, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said last month that Liu did not respect her party’s policies nor did she get along with her colleagues in the legislature when serving as a PFP legislator.

“I’m not the only one to have criticized her. It seems that nobody has high hopes for her,” Lo was quoted as saying by local media when asked whether Liu was the best candidate to head the CEPD.

Shen Chung-hua (沈中華), a professor of finance at NTU, however, said it was more important to see if Liu can map out a comprehensive economic blueprint for Taiwan than judge her on past political experiences.

“With an economic cooperation framework agreement expected to be signed soon, Taiwan is undergoing a turning point. We should look at the big picture rather than concentrate on little things,” Shen said.

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