Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 8 News List

A New Year call for cooperation

By the Liberty Times editorial

To the sound of the countdown on New Year's Eve across the country, Taiwan bid farewell to 2002. It was a year that brought a mixture of troubles, chaos, hopes, crisis and change. Having left the past year and in welcoming the arrival of a new year, is a moment that is ripe for re-examining the past, looking forward to the future, inspiring and encouraging ourselves and identifying goals and meaning in our lives. In short, it is a new beginning.

Just over a year ago, as we bade farewell to 2001, we were still under the shadows of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US and were grappling with the fact that the once thriving and promising Internet industry had turned to bubbles. While in 2002, international security and the global economy can hardly be said to have fully recovered, it can at least be said that the darkest time is over. Everything seems to be rising from rock bottom. As for Taiwan, last year's economy was an improvement on the previous year's.

The first three quarters respectively showed 1.2 percent, 3.9 percent and 4.77 percent growth. Economic growth for the whole of last year is projected at around 3.27 percent. In comparison with the negative growth of the previous year, things have truly improved. While it is hard to see any strong signs of economic revival this year, it is not likely that things will further deteriorate either.

This economic progress report, however, is obviously not enough to make people happy.

This is because, the economic downturn at home in 2001 was due primarily to the impact on Taiwan of the international economy. For the same reason, the economic growth of last year was due primarily to improvements in the international economy, rather than to public policy. Still, the economy seems to be on a rebound, having been on a green light for the past eight months.

Unemployment remains very high by Taiwan standards. The unemployment rate reached 5.22 percent in November, putting the unemployed population at about 500,000.

The increase in unemployment results not only in the impoverishment of many individuals, but also in declines in consumption and in industrial production, a rise in inflation and a depreciation in the value of personal wealth. So, despite the economic growth of last year, more people are becoming financially impoverished, which is creating more social problems. The level of dissatisfaction with the country's leader is naturally rising rapidly.

`taiwan first'

The unemployment problem is not unlike a bomb hidden in the dark corners of society. If it is not removed in good time, it will endanger social stability and public security.

The reality is that a quick look at the unemployment problem indicates that it is a negative by-product of the government's misguided cross-strait policy, a side effect of the government's policy of opening up toward China.

The massive outflow of capital, companies and highly skilled personnel from Taiwan to China has created several million job opportunities in China, but reduced job opportunities in Taiwan. Not only this, but China-bound businesses have become the biggest threat to the survival of businesses planning to stay in Taiwan.

This is the crux of Taiwan's inability to revive the economy in recent years. Because Taiwan's economy is shifting quickly toward China, it is facing a dual"sinicization" and "marginalization" crisis. The "Taiwan first" ideology and the country's sovereignty face serious challenges.

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