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Taiwan PM urges opposition to join fight against slowdown

Publication Date : 29-09-2012

 

Taiwan Premier Sean Chen yesterday called on the opposition camp to join the government's efforts to battle the current slowdown for the people's sake.

He expressed hope that the nation's economic indicators would improve in October.

Amid protests by opposition lawmakers when giving his latest administrative report at the Legislative Yuan, Chen stressed that improving Taiwan's industrial structure and integrating with the international economic system are the two most important tasks facing the country today.

Following the resolution to a trade dispute with the United States over beef imports containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, the government will work to quickly resume Taiwan-US talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, and to speed up free trade negotiations with other trade partners, he said.

The premier said the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) has recently unveiled an economic stimulus package in the hope of enhancing Taiwan's economic strength and improving its industrial structure.

“In the face of the current situation, I hope ruling and opposition parties can work together to boost the economy,” Chen said at the end of his report, which was cut short due to “boycott” action taken by the three lawmakers of minor opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), who tried to block the report.

Legislators of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chose not to attend the session as part of their boycott.

Apology

During the question-and-answer session, Legislator Chiang Nai-shin of the ruling Kuomintang raised concerns over the worsening economic indicators, climbing commodity prices, high unemployment rate and rising misery index.

Before answering the questions, Premier Chen first made an apology for the economy's unsatisfactory performance.

He said that all major international think tanks have revised downward the global economic growth forecasts for 2012, a sign that the world economic environment is continuing to worsen.

But Chen said that he was optimistic about improvements for Taiwan's business conditions in October from this month, judging from the latest performances in exports and the capital market.

The unemployment rate in Taiwan was lifted mainly by the seasonal entry of college graduates into the job market in the summer that had raised the misery index, he said.

For the longer period of January to August, however, the index in Taiwan was actually the lowest among the Four Asian Tigers of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, he said.

The consumer price index was not abnormally high after deducting the temporary factor caused by the two typhoons that hit Taiwan in August, he said.

When questioned about why the Cabinet decided to raise the hourly wage payment instead of increasing the minimum monthly wage, Chen said that Hong Kong has recently also increased only the hourly wage and left the monthly figure unchanged.

The policies of Taiwan and Hong Kong were adopted using the same logic — to avoid squeezing employers, he said. This would give both economies time to first prop up overall activities and then make adjustments to permanent wages at the proper time, Chen added.

Boycott

Chen's report came one week after the premier survived a no-confidence vote jointly initiated by the DPP and the TSU over what they alleged was the premier's failure to manage the economy.

Before yesterday's meeting got under way, the three TSU legislators — Lin Shih-chia, Hsu Chung-hsin and Huang Wen-ling — occupied the podium at the conference hall, demanding that the government's economics and finance ministers be replaced to “terminate the economic disaster” in Taiwan.

Chen was finally able to take the floor to give the report and answer questions after the ruling KMT caucus had its legislators form a human wall around the podium to shield the TSU lawmakers from moving in closer.

The TSU's three politicians, however, continued to chant slogans and held up protest banners to interrupt Chen's report, even as the premier called for team efforts to work for the well-being of the people.

 

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