Fri, Nov 02, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Drop in competitiveness draws mixed reactions

By Mo Yan-chih and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH CNA

The World Economic Forum's latest global competitiveness survey, in which Taiwan's ranking dropped one notch from last year, received a mixed reaction from government officials and opposition lawmakers yesterday.

Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairwoman Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said the government would review the causes behind the decline and seek to address the nation's weaknesses.

Ho said that although the slight drop in Taiwan's competitiveness ranking would not have any impact on the nation, the rating was "like a mirror that allows Taiwan to see its own shortcomings."

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) blamed last year's "anti-Chen campaign" for the lower rating.

He said the drop was not surprising, because last year had been marred by political turmoil caused by the campaign to demand his resignation.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus said the government had failed to recognize the nation's economic problems and instead focused on political issues.

"It's the economy, not the UN membership, stupid!" KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said at a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Kuo said the administration had poured all its efforts into electioneering and promoting its UN referendum drive while ignoring the economy and people's livelihoods.

"What can the Democratic Progressive Party do apart from fighting for the elections and blaming the opposition parties?" Kuo said.

On Wednesday, the Swiss-based World Economic Forum released the Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008, in which Taiwan's economy ranked 14th.

Taiwan ranked below all of its major competitors in Asia, including Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and, for the first time, South Korea.

In a decidedly poor performance which dragged down the nation's overall ranking, Taiwan ranked 58th in terms of financial market sophistication -- one of the 12 pillar indicators making up the competitiveness index.

Among all sub-indices under this category, Taiwan performed worst in terms of soundness of its banking industry, with the nation's ranking sliding from 100th last year to 114th this year.

In terms of restriction on capital flows, Taiwan ranked 80th among the 131 countries surveyed.

Chen said that rampant insider trading and ineffective financial reform are mostly to blame. He emphasized that the fall of competitive ranking is a problem that must be jointly dealt with not by one single agency.

Ho said she was confident that ongoing efforts by the government to step up its management of banking institutions would be reflected in the competitiveness ranking for next year.

For example, she said, in addition to continued financial deregulation by the Financial Supervisory Commission, the Cabinet on Wednesday finalized a set of measures aimed at tightening controls against insider trading, enhancing the soundness of banks and legalizing the establishment of financing companies.

Still, KMT legislators Alex Fai (費鴻泰) and Diane Lee (李慶安) said Chen and his administration were refusing to acknowledge the nation's economic problems and urged the government to present an economic policy to improve Taiwan's competitiveness.

"Chen has said that Taiwan is more competitive than South Korea. As a president who rules the country with nothing but slogans and lies, the report should come as a serious warning," Lee said.

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