Mon, Apr 07, 2014 - Page 14 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: Student protest to affect free economic zones: CIER

Staff writer, with CNA

As the student-led occupation of the Legislative Yuan heads toward its fourth week, major bills and progress in setting up a healthcare industry in free economic pilot zones have ground to a halt.

Such healthcare services could see revenues of NT$38.7 billion (US$1.28 billion) per year by 2016, provided an act governing the zones passes, according to the state-backed Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER, 中華經濟研究院).

Yet the timetable could now be pushed back, as the final two of five hearings on the major project have been rescheduled amid disruptions to legislative proceedings, since the protesters began their occupation on March 18.

The Cabinet originally pushed for the law on the zones to be passed by the end of the current session late next month, causing resistance from the opposition, which then led the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to agree to five public hearings first.

With the timing of the remaining two hearings now uncertain, doubts have been cast over the original forecast that private investment in the healthcare sector could rise by NT$21 billion as 13,000 jobs are created.

Last year, more than 230,000 foreign nationals contributed NT$13.6 billion to Taiwanese medical institutions, government data shows.

The number of overseas patients treated and the amount of money they bring in would both stand to grow under the free economic pilot zones.

From August to early December last year, eight businesses have invested a total of NT$600 million in the eight free economic pilot zones, which are located around ports, an airport and an agricultural biotechnology park.

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