Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 8 News List

DPP needs to look over its record

By Lin Cho-Shui 林濁水

Not too long ago, the US magazine Business Week reported that the competitiveness of Taiwan’s information-technology industry had risen from sixth in the world to second place, just behind the US, and to first place in terms of research and development environment. These achievements are not based on sheer luck. In the 1990s, the technology policies of Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as minister of economic affairs from 1990 to 1993 and premier from 1997 to 2000 — encouraged original equipment manufacturing of hardware at the expense of innovation, research and development, and brand development.

For example, integrated circuit design and software companies were not only discouraged but even hassled if they applied to be listed on the stock exchange. They were not allowed to set up factories in the Hsinchu Science Park, either. These policies, which punished innovators, were overturned by people such as former Council for Economic Planning and Development chairman Chen Po-chih (陳博志) and former ministers of economic affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) and Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥), who promoted the ideals of a green silicon island and a knowledge-based economy.

The major economic policies of 2001 sought to replace Siew’s vision of an Asia-Pacific regional operations center with a vision of Taiwan as a research and development center. The research and development skills and effective brand marketing of Taiwan’s manufacturers is reflected in the Acer Eee PC and Mio and HTC smart phones, which have become hits internationally. The report in Business Week reflects these developments. During the same period of time, we have seen great developments in areas such as lifestyle, cinema and luxury products.

Although Chen Shui-bian’s heavy involvement in the second stage of financial reforms sparked heated debate, we must not forget that the first stage of reform — despite the KMT’s constant resistance — managed to erase the NT$1.7 trillion (US$52.4 billion) in debt that Siew left behind. Yet this achievement was demonized by the KMT, and Chen Shui-bian, who did not understand its worth, disregarded the effort and even forced Chen Po-chih and Lin to step down, while supporting Siew and Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤). Essentially the president lent credence to the KMT’s demonization of the DPP’s reforms.

Although Chen Shui-bian ordered the Economic Development Advisory Conference in 2001 to “first get the economy up and running and worry about social welfare later on,” the Council of Labor Affairs still managed to push for many laws that had been blocked by the government in the 1990s, such as the Protective Act for Mass Redundancy of Employees (大量解僱勞工保護法), the Employment Insurance Act (就業保險法) and the National Pension Act (國民年金法), with the help of the Cabinet.

These developments, together with the already established National Health Insurance, helped lay the foundation for a modern social security system and promoted the vision of a “shared community” espoused by Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

During this time, Chen Shui-bian’s only major contribution was balancing the DPP’s political support in the north and south. But support later shifted against Chen and the DPP in the south. Looking back on the last eight years, it is evident that the issues the government focused on, such as constitutional reform and diplomacy, all regressed, while they accomplished progress in areas they did not focus on. This is exceptionally odd.

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