TSMC chief slams government plan

By Tsering Namgyal  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 17

Taiwan's top technologist yesterday revealed what he considers to be "fallacies" surrounding the government's knowledge-based economy plan.

In a keynote speech delivered yesterday at the Presidential Office, Morris Chang (張忠謀), the chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) said the government's latest initiative -- the development of the knowledge-based economy -- was deluding the public into believing that the recent economic boom in the US was driven by a "knowledge-based economy."

The chairman of the world's largest made-to-order semiconductor company also questioned whether the main focus of a knowledge-based economy is actually "knowledge."

Council of Economic Planning and Development (CEPD 經建會) Chairman Chen Po-chi (陳博志) -- an architect of Taiwan's knowledge-based economy plan -- received approval in January for NT$30 billion in government funding over the next five years to implement 57 projects to develop a knowledge-based economy in Taiwan.

The government's plan is divided in to six parts: setting up a job-creating mechanism to help establish new enterprises; expanding Internet infrastructure; expanding applications for information technology and Web sites; revising the educational system; building a service-oriented government; and taking steps to prevent Taiwan from losing its technological edge.

Despite the soundness of the government's plan, Chen immediately embraced Morris Chang's views yesterday, saying that Chang's eight-point examination of the nation's knowledge-based economy "is unwittingly the same as his own ideas."

Chang said that another myth is that the knowledge-based economy is high-tech centered, with little relation to other industrial sectors. The high-tech sector will not necessary lead to a concomitant all-out growth in GNP, he said.

Chang also questioned whether a knowledge-based economy could be developed independently of a host of factors, including labor issues, and legaland ethical aspects.

He also questioned, in what seemed to be a source of discomfort to the Cabinet, whether Taiwan has any choice but to attempt to implement a knowledge-based economy.

The government has rationalized its plan by citing the high-tech led boom that has propelled the US on its longest period of economic expansion. Chen said that incomes would not necessarily rise across-the-board in a knowledge-based economy.

Hu Chung-ying (胡中英), the CEPD's chief economist said that the slowdown in the US economy does not mean the end of the knowledge-based economy.

"There has been a long economic expansion in the US," Hu said. "The slowdown is a normal cyclical downturn and has little correlation to the knowledge-based-economy principle."