Fri, Mar 15, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Vice premier wants to drive down joblessness

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) yesterday vowed to gradually lower the country's unemployment rate to 4.2 percent before the end of this year from December's 5.22 percent.

"To achieve the goal, [the government] needs to create at least 100,000 jobs this year," Lin told reporters yesterday.

Based on estimates from the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the government plans to achieve that goal by stimulating export growth along with increased spending on infrastructure projects. Lin said that exports for the year should increase by US$6 billion, generating jobs for 50,000 workers. In addition, NT$40 billion in government spending will create another 20,000 jobs.

Exports in February fell 20.5 percent from a year earlier to US$8.05 billion, marking the 12th straight month of decline. The total was also lower than January's US$9.69 billion, according to Ministry of Finance statistics.

The Cabinet's three-year employment stimulus measures and future demand for caretakers [for the elderly and disabled] will also create tens of thousands of jobs, Lin said, adding "a total of 110,000 jobs should be created without any difficulties."

Commenting on Lin's appraisal, People First Party legislator Christine Liu (劉憶如) said the government's plans are not "complete."

Liu, also a finance professor at National Taiwan University, said that Lin has failed to look at indicators of private investment to effectively improve unemployment. "Consumption and private-sector investment are two important pillars bolstering the country's GDP growth," she said.

"The country's private investment had declined by 27 percent last year to negatively impact the unemployment rate."

70,000 new jobs

*Lin Hsin-yi said that exports for the year should increase by US$6 billion, generating jobs for 50,000 workers.

*He also said that NT$40 billion in government spending would create another 20,000 jobs.

Liu said that whether Taiwan's export will rebound, as the CEPD expected, is closely linked to the international economic recovery.

Though failing to address investment stimulus, Lin, however, yesterday further acknowledged that last year's unemployment was also a result of "factory closures," saying "some local industries lost their competitiveness overnight."

The veteran entrepreneur-turned-politician said that he was optimistic that the economy will recover at the end of the second quarter or at the beginning of the third quarter. "We are looking at a mild U-shaped recovery, instead of a V-shaped one," he said.

Lin expects GDP growth to bounce back to between 3 percent and 4 percent this year.

"We've benchmarked 4.5 percent as our goal," he said, adding that countries with a gross national product of US$13,000 usually maintain a GDP growth rate of between 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

Lin said that local industries should upgrade their R&D, marketing and logistics capabilities.

"We should abandon low-end deals and focus on developing high value-added, capital-intensive and technology-intensive industries to internationalize our economic status," Lin said.

He said the county also needs to further develop emerging industries such as biochemistry and nanotechnology.

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