Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) yesterday proposed setting up three free economic demonstration zones — in northern, central and southern Taiwan — instead of the five potential regional centers proposed by his predecessor, to expedite implementation of the plan.
Kuan yesterday took over as council minister, replacing Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘), after the new premier and his Cabinet was sworn in by the president.
Yiin said at a press conference in December that a free economic demonstration zone might include one or more regional centers, such as a medical center for severe diseases and medical tourism, an innovation and integration center for industries, a logistics center, a personnel training center, and an agricultural transportation and sales center.
Kuan appeared to have a different take on the plan.
“It would take approximately one-and-a-half years for such a plan to pass in the Legislative Yuan because it requires cooperation of many government departments,” Kuan told a press conference.
He said that establishing a personnel training center in the zones would also be inappropriate because the center would require the participation of all schools of advanced education, making it difficult to set up such a center in a single region.
Moreover, the Private School Act (私立學校法) would need to be revised first, he added.
“We will start from what we can do immediately while taking initiatives to open up further at the same time,” Kuan said.
Kuan said he would submit a draft plan on the free economic demonstration zones to the Cabinet in a month.
Under his plan, the government will likely set up free economic demonstration zones in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung, but other local governments could apply to join the project after the three zones are in place and a special law governing the zones is passed.
Formerly a minister without portfolio in charge of economic policies, Kuan said he was confident that the country would achieve 4 percent economic growth this year.
Citing the double-digit growth in 2010 after the global financial crisis, Kuan said he was especially confident about reaching the goal because of the low base of comparison last year.
As for domestic employment, he said the government would work to lower the jobless rate to below 4 percent by the end of this year.
Kuan said he was cautiously optimistic about the nation’s economy amid predictions of a better global economic prospects and uncertainties arising from the quantitative-easing measures taken by governments around the world.