Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) urged the government to create a more favorable and fair investment environment for their operations, as representatives from SMEs held their first meeting with financial and economic government officials yesterday.
"We are happy about the meeting, because the government at least has shown its willingness to listen to our voices," Day Sheng-tung (戴勝通), chairman of the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (中小企業協會), which organized the forum, told reporters after the 90-minute closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon.
The association hopes to hold similar teatime meetings every quarter in cooperation with the Taiwan Federation of Industry (工業協進會) to facilitate negotiations and communication between SMEs and the government, Day said.
The 43 people who attended the meeting yesterday raised a wide variety of questions and made several suggestions to the officials, who were led by Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Day said.
The attendees' concerns included the possible impact of the new pension system on businesses and legal restrictions on industrial development. They suggested that the government should allow Chinese capital into the nation, and that Taiwanese businesspeople based in China should be better supported.
Some expressed concern that the nation's 1.17 million SMEs, which generally lack sufficient collateral, would have trouble securing loans after the state-run Taiwan Business Bank (台灣企銀) has been merged with a private lender as part of the government's efforts to halve the number of state-run banking institutions by the end of the year.
SMEs account for 98 percent of Taiwan's enterprises.
Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全), who attended the forum, said that SMEs will still be able to obtain loans, as Taiwan Business Bank only has a 12 percent market share in terms of granting loans to SMEs.
Last year, Taiwan Business Bank extended NT$330 billion (US$10 billion) in credit to SMEs, placing it in second place after the market leader, Mega Financial Holding Co (兆豐金控), which granted loans totaling twice this amount in the same period, Day quoted Lin as saying.
Some of the attendees voiced doubts as to how the government will react to the appreciation of the Chinese yuan.
Hsu Yi-hsiung (徐義雄), deputy governor of the central bank, said that although other Asian nations' exchange rates can serve as a point of reference, Taiwan is adopting a liberal exchange-rate policy.
However, Day said he expects the New Taiwan dollar to depreciate further in light of the shrinking trade surplus and the nation's export-driven business environment.
"As labor costs cannot be cut any more, depreciation of the NT dollar will be very important for the nation's exports," Day said.
Vice Premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) and Financial Supervisory Commission vice chairman Lu Daung-yen (呂東英) also attended the meeting.