Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 10 News List

AmCham survey gives failing grades

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE Respondents to the group's annual poll were critical of bureaucrats and legislators and said their faith in the government is declining

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

An American Chamber of Com-merce in Taipei (AmCham) survey has given the legislative and executive branches failing grades for their economic performance last year, saying the bureaucrats did a worse job of improving the business environment than they had in 2001.

Atop AmCham's gripe list is the amount of time legislators waste bogged down in trivial squabbles to the detriment of the policy-making process.

"Oftentimes success is dependent on the ability of all political parties to recognize the national interest and to put aside petty disputes," AmCham president Gus Sorenson said yesterday. "They have difficulty getting together for the common good."

The survey responses show confidence is sliding.

"When asked to rate the government's performance in the past 12 months, 50.9 percent [of respondents] said they thought the Legislative Yuan had done a worse job of improving the overall business environment versus 50.4 percent in 2002, while 46.3 percent said the same thing about the Executive Yuan, [up from] 41.2 percent in 2002," said Dennis Peng (彭文正), journalism professor at National Taiwan University and consultant for Data Miners Asia Co, the company that conducted this year's survey on behalf of AmCham.

A slim 5.6 percent of those polled rated the legislature's performance as better than in 2001 and 13.4 percent said the executive branch had showed improvement.

Citing frequent changes at the top -- three premiers, four finance ministers and three economics ministers in three years -- the survey panned the government's economic leadership and inability to form clear policies and carry them through the legislative process.

"It is not clear which individual or team in the government is actually coordinating and articulating Taiwan's overall economic policy, and this gives observers a sense that economic policy is fragmented and perhaps internally inconsistent," the survey said.

Clear economic policies, the implementation of those policies, legislation and regulations, and political stability remained the top three priorities for AmCham members this year, the same as last year.

The three requirements at the top of the chamber's wish-list also remained unchanged; the government should keep its nose out of hiring decisions, foster further internationalization and allow access to markets in China.

The survey conceded that a sound legal skeleton is in place, but there is no meat on the bones.

"While executives see a fairly good legal system in place -- intellectual property rights are an example -- they increasingly complain about inadequate enforcement and insufficient deterrence from the punishments imposed," it said.

The lack of movement reflects a growing malaise in the foreign business community.

"A number of priority issues have been `priorities' for two, five and even 10 years, a fact that contributes to a sense of frustration," the survey said.

Taiwan risks losing out if it doesn't get its act together, one AmCham member said yesterday.

"Businesses compete and countries compete, and on the margins, the investment will go to other places if those actions aren't taken, and if the structure is not put in place to welcome capital and investors," said Jeffrey Williams, former AmCham president and former general manager of Standard Chartered Bank.

"In short, Taiwan's government and its people need to vigorously embrace the nation's long-standing goals of internationalization, globalization and privatization and make them a reality," the survey said.

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