The economic growth rate in the first quarter of this year was projected at 5.13 percent, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said at the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.<
“That was the outcome of hard work by this administration as well as the public. The government should continue with all its policies to make sure that the growth rate for this year stands at 4.8 percent as we expect,” he said.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s performance over the past eight years had often been underrated because of election or political rivalries, Chang said, adding that now that the presidential election is over, it was time for the public to look at the issue objectively.
Under the DPP’s leadership, Taiwan’s economic growth averaged 4.1 percent between 2000 and last year, which was higher than the global average of 3.2 percent for the same period, the premier said.
With a total of 910,000 jobs created over the past eight years, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.91 percent last year, the lowest in the past seven years, he said.
By the end of last year, foreign exchange reserves had increased to US$270.3 billion, 1.5 times as much as the US$106.2 billion recorded at the end of 1999 when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was last in power, Chang said.
Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairwoman Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) told the Cabinet that the average unemployment rate in the first quarter was 3.87 percent, holding steady abeit 0.03 percent higher than the same period last year.
Ho said the economy continued to grow at a stabilized pace in the first quarter, with companies remaining active in external trade and export sales rising.
Chang said the volume of foreign trade had doubled over the course of the DPP’s terms in office, from US$232.3 billion in 1999 to US$465.9 billion last year.
In the first quarter of this year, export orders amounted to US$ 87.8 billion, a 15.7 percent increase over the same quarter last year, thanks to the electrical, rubber, plastic and precision machine industries, Chang said, citing data released by the Ministry of Economics Affairs reported on April 23.
Exports in the first quarter increased by 17.6 percent over the same period last year to reach US$64.05 billion, mainly from electronic, motor-driven and optical products, he said, citing statistics compiled by the Ministry of Finance on April 7.
The trade surplus, meanwhile, plummeted 46 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, to US$3.39 billion because of the soaring costs of crude oil, machinery, iron and steel imports, government data shows.
The DPP administration had also helped domestic banks write off bad debts amounting to nearly NT$2 trillion (US$65.65 billion), helping lower their average non-performing loan ratio from a high of 11.76 percent to 1.79 percent, Chang said.