In a strongly worded comment, National Development Council (NDC) Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) told a radio station yesterday that there is no such thing as the Four Asian Tigers anymore because Taiwan can no longer generate the sort of growth that earned it a place in the exclusive club.
Speaking on Taipei-based UFO Radio, the country’s chief economic policy planner said that excessive restrictions and a bent toward protectionism are keeping Taiwan’s economy behind its three former counterparts, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
“When the economy shot up rapidly in the 1980s, there was no [government] intervention, and people had a lot of creativity in doing business, but when the economy matured, all sorts of rules were put in place,” Kuan said, attributing the sluggish economy to strict controls.
These include environmental regulations, Kuan said, citing Taiwan’s decision to cancel the construction of a major petrochemical plant in 2011, calling the incident a case of economic development yielding to environmentalism.
A petrochemical industrial chain could generate revenues of more than NT$1 trillion (US$33 billion), he said, adding that even a small country like Singapore has a petrochemical industry. He praised the city-state’s high environmental standards and quick, transparent approval process.
Kuan said that it does not make sense any more to look at Taiwan in the context of the Asian Tigers, as Singapore’s per capita income is now double that of Taiwan, South Korea has grown to be one of the G20 major economies and Hong Kong is flying high on the back of China.