Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Countering an `M-shaped' society

By Paul Lin 林保華

Taiwan's economy and standard of living have recently become heated electioneering topics. Although the nation's per capita income has increased, it isn't reflected in the standard of living. This is the problem we must look into and resolve, and to confuse one with the other is an election ploy.

First, an M-shaped society is a global phenomenon. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his camp have always accused the ruling party of its isolationist policy and lack of a global view; however, failing to see the global M-shaped society shows a real lack of international vision.

While the gap between the rich and the poor in China and Hong Kong is wider than in Taiwan, the poverty gap has increased in the US as well.

A good example of this is soaring real estate prices in upscale neighborhoods even though more and more ordinary people cannot even afford to purchase homes. This kind of situation is also appearing in Taipei.

Second, the existence of the poverty gap has to do with resource allocation problems. It is difficult to reform the old unfair allocation system if the opposition is the majority in the legislature. What's more, most Taiwanese businesspeople are in China and do their consuming there.

Even many retired military officers, civil servants and teachers, who enjoy an 18 percent preferential interest rate, consume in China and stimulate the local economy there.

How could older people with lower incomes, low education levels and without special benefits consume enough in Taiwan to stimulate the nation's domestic economy?

Third, the fact that a great amount of domestic capital has flown to China is the most important factor contributing to Taiwan's economic problems. Policies regarding Taiwanese investment in China should be examined and amended on a yearly basis depending on the situation. Politicians cannot just make random promises about these things at liberty.

As Ma encourages Taiwanese businesspeople to go all out and invest in China without caution, the activity has become simply frantic.

Taiwan needs to attract foreign investment by liberalizing economic restrictions in a way that ensures national security.

As Hong Kong's economy and commercial markets have been increasingly Sinicized, Taiwan should make an extra effort to develop its own economy.

In the past the government used big public works and construction projects to tend to Taiwan's domestic needs, develop the economy and create more employment opportunities.

But the opposition majority in the legislature has rejected or postponed annual budgets and some economic proposals. And yet the pan-blues dare to say the government is powerless. They are very good at blaming others for their own wrongdoing.

It is clear that the pan-blue camp is not caring for Taiwan's interests, and it is the Taiwanese public that is harmed the most by the party's scorched-earth politics.

In the process of economic liberalization and globalization, the emergence of disadvantaged groups is unavoidable and the government should do its best to help them.

Taiwan's health insurance system, for example, is doing well in this respect. Proof of how good this system is, is that even Taiwanese who live in China and proclaim their loyalty to that country come back to Taiwan to see a doctor when they get ill.

This story has been viewed 3801 times.
TOP top