Academics and industry representatives yesterday called on government agencies to establish clear industrial policies at a two-day conference which aims to improve the domestic investment environment and transform the nation’s industrial structure.
More than 400 academics, business leaders and government officials attended the National Conference on Industrial Development at the Taipei International Convention Center.
“The government has long supported local firms in product innovation investment. However, the outcomes did not reflect the government’s efforts, showing the ineffectiveness of its policy implementation,” National Chengchi University chancellor Wu Si-hua (吳思華) said.
Taiwanese firms primarily invest in information and communication technologies (ICT) — up to 70 percent of total R&D spending — but Taiwan’s ICT exports were relatively lower compared with South Korea, which is known for a diverse selection of products, Wu said.
“The difference comes from the two government’s targets and the way they guide industries to transform and innovate new products,” he said, adding that Taiwan must strengthen cross-agency co-operation and help industries create high-value-added products and services.
Eric Chuo (卓永財), chairman of machine tool manufacturer Hiwin Technologies Corp (上銀科技), said the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) should send executives overseas to gain better knowledge of industrial trends.
“Germany, one of the world’s major economies, achieves high economic growth with support from mid and small-sized enterprises. Taiwan can follow suit,” Chuo said.
He also called on the government to pay attention to the nation’s machine tool industry, as Western countries are taking patent-protection measures to safeguard the industry, which is linked to tech industries developing the latest consumer electronic devices.
National Taiwan University electrical engineering professor Wu Ching-hsiung (吳靜雄) said the government should review the education system and the university’s evaluation mechanism, while General Chamber of Commerce chairman Lawrence Chang (張平沼) said it should put more emphasis on vocational high schools and ease regulations on foreign workers.
Kung Ming-Hsin (龔明鑫), vice-president of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (台經院) said that at hundreds of meetings prior to yesterday’s conference, participants generally agreed that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee should not have the power to decide whether an investment project can take place, adding that the number of experts with a social economic background on the committee is just one out of 14.
Kung said the long process of environmental assessment scares investors, and discussion of each environmental assessment case should be limited to the project under review.
While Kung’s statement gained support among industrial representatives, union members and environmental protection groups disagreed and protested that they were not invited to meetings prior to yesterday’s conference.
Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said the government should set a limit for hazardous elements discharged by factories, while Taiwan Labor Front secretary general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said it should face the fact that wages had returned to their level of 15 years ago.
There were protests by labor groups and environmental activists outside the conference, accusing the government of trying to remove the EIA review under the guise of industrial upgrades and suspicious that the Ministry of Economic Affairs will try to expand the highly polluting petrochemical sector.