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Talk of the day -- Perng Fai-nan born to be a central banker

2012/08/25 20:28:29

The governor of Taiwan's central bank was named Thursday as one of the world's best central bankers in 2012 for the eighth consecutive year by New York-based Global Finance magazine.

The magazine gave him an eighth straight "A" for his performance since 2005 and his ninth overall counting his first one in 2000, the most ever garnered by any central banker in the annual survey.

The humble 73-year-old banker attributed his high marks to Taiwan's 23 million people, saying financial stability and sound market development were the result of a concerted effort by the country as a whole.

Perng has shown little interest in climbing higher on the political stage, insisting that he will finish his time in public service as central bank governor.

The following are excerpts from local newspaper reports on why Perng has earned the world's praise and whether he will stay on the job:

Commercial Times:

If it is true as financial executives have said that central bankers must live with discipline and have steady characters, then Perng was no doubt born to head a central bank.

Those acquainted with Perng know that the distinguished banker maintains a rather normal lifestyle. He is not fond of playing golf, and the only exercise he gets is taking brisk walks in a park near his home every morning. If he's too busy to walk before going to work, he makes up for it after work.

Some have said Perng does not know how to enjoy life, but he has never seemed bothered by the criticism.

He is dedicated to his work, going into the office even on weekends and national holidays, and he avoids making a big deal of meals. He usually has a boxed lunch from the restaurant at the central bank's headquarters and sticks to a handful of restaurants he knows if he has to eat out with friends or visitors.

His self-discipline and insistence on a regular lifestyle mirrors Taiwan's stable monetary policy, under which changes in benchmark interest rates and exchange rates are closely controlled. That policy prevented Taiwan from drowning in the financial storm in 2008.

Set in his regular routines, Perng will continue to take his morning walk, eat his boxed lunch and work on weekends no matter how often he is given an "A" grade for his success in fighting inflation, limiting volatility in interest rates, intervening judiciously in currency markets, and maintaining political neutrality.

United Daily News:

Many are interested in finding out whether Perng will give himself the chance to earn a 10th "A," because his third term as governor of the Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) ends in February 2013. No one knows at present if he will be kept in the post or if he even wants to continue on the job.

If Perng stays, he will become the longest-running central bank chief in Taiwan's history, having led the bank since February 1998.

Yu Kuo-hwa also served as central bank governor for three terms, from 1969 to 1984.

Aside from his success in defending the Taiwan dollar, the veteran banker is also known for his clean image. He does not own any stock, and his assets are limited to bank deposits, a gold account, and an old house in Taipei.

Economic Daily News:

Perng's conservative and prudent style in managing the central bank has drawn mixed opinions, with some blaming the surging price of property and the loss of individual wealth in Taiwan on the bank's policy of keeping interest rates and the Taiwan dollar exchange rate low.

Those who appreciate Perng's style, however, believe that under Perng's leadership, Taiwan has been able to maintain low and stable commodity prices. He has also been praised for always paying attention to the country's exports and economic growth and for having been cautious whenever implementing austerity measures.

He was the person who helped Taiwan escape the destructive Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the global financial tsunami in 2008.

China Times:

Many lawmakers have publicly expressed their support for Perng to stay in his post amid some concern over the veteran banker's age.

Norman Yin, a finance professor at National Chengchi University, said a central bank governor must be able to withstand criticism and insist on the independence of the institution as Perng has done, and that age is the last factor to decide whether a person is qualified for the post.

Citing Samuel Shieh (1919-2004), who served as central bank governor between 1989 and 1994, as an example, he said Shieh was not appointed to the position until he was over 70 years old.

Liberty Times:

Though he is the oldest official in the central bank, Perng is energetic and works over 12 hours a day. Under his stewardship, the bank has helped add NT$2.67 trillion (US$89 billion) to the country's Treasury over the past 14 years. (Aug. 25, 2012)

(By Elizabeth Hsu)