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Taiwan’s Finance Minister Resigns

November 25, 2002

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Taiwan’s premier accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Lee Yung-san amid controversy over government efforts to reform debt-laden credit unions that lend money to farmers and fishermen, the Cabinet said Monday.

When Lee tendered his resignation last week, he told reporters that health reasons where behind his decision.

But he added that his ministry should take responsibility for the misunderstanding created by efforts to reform the credit unions. The farmers and fishermen fear their main credit source will be cut off at a time when Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization has opened the island’s markets to cheap foreign imports.

Lee was the third finance minister to leave President Chen Shui-bian’s 2-year-old administration.

Vice Finance Minister Sam Wang will be acting finance minister until the Cabinet names a successor, the Ministry of Finance said Monday.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who as Taiwan’s No. 3 leader heads the Cabinet, also accepted the resignation of Fan Cheng-chung, chairman of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture.

Replacement ministers may not be named before Saturday, when the Cabinet meets with farmers’ representatives to discuss setting up a bank to supervise the credit unions, Yu told reporters.

Last Friday, the Cabinet said Yu also offered to resign. But by Sunday, Yu agreed to stay at the president’s request.

The resignations of Lee and Fan follow a Saturday protest march in Taipei by about 100,000 farmers and fishermen.

Those financial institutions have the highest nonperforming loan ratios in the financial sector. The administration has said problem loans from the island’s 344 credit cooperatives, which the government is responsible for, cost taxpayers nearly $1 million a day.

The government planned to take over the most debt-ridden lenders.

The government has said its reforms were misunderstood and suspended the 3-month-old effort last week.

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