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Donald Trump

Taiwan-born Elaine Chao chosen by Trump to head transportation department

Chao to implement US$1 trillion infrastructure programme Trump wants

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 3:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 8:41am

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Elaine Chao, a former U.S. labour secretary, to lead the government’s transportation policy and his plans to rebuild infrastructure in a programme valued at as much as US$1 trillion, according to a person familiar with transition planning.

Chao, 63, a former banker who served all eight years of President George W. Bush’s administration, would become secretary of the Transportation Department in Trump’s Cabinet if confirmed by the Senate.

Trump’s economic advisers released a plan advocating the provision of as much as US$140 billion in tax credits to support $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. The credits would be offset through tax revenue from the projects’ labour wages and business profits.

The president-elect’s transition website says the new administration seeks “to invest $550 billion to ensure we can export our goods and move our people faster and safer.” The details on the structure of the plan are still to come.

Trump pledged in his victory speech to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” an effort that “will put millions of our people to work.” Power plants, ports, water pipes, sewage treatment plans, electrical grids, even parks and schools, can also fit under the expansive definition of infrastructure.

The Transportation Department has been the conduit for US funding of highways, bridges and airports. It regulates airlines, automobiles, railroads, trucking and busing. The agency has a budget of about $95 billion and a total of more than 57,000 employees within the agency and others it oversees, according to recent budgets.

Among its operating units are the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Chao in June joined the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based policy group, as a distinguished fellow focusing on topics including employment, labour mobility and trade.

Chao didn’t speak English when she arrived with her family in the US at age 8 from Taiwan, according to a biography on her website. She graduated from Harvard Business School and was vice president of syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker with Citicorp in New York before entering public service that included leading the Peace Corps.

Chao sits on boards of News Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, Vulcan Materials Co and Ingersoll-Rand PLC, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. She previously served on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.