The flagging state of Taiwan’s stock market is a clear reflection of this. Over the past decade and more, the market has not been boosted by overseas capital, or by Taiwan depository receipts (TDR), which are meant to attract investment from abroad. On the contrary, the freedom given to vultures to come and go as they please has caused the stock market to become emaciated. Investors all over East Asia are amazed by the rate at which Taiwan’s stock market has been losing momentum.
However, one cannot completely deny the so-called “effectiveness” of the planned FEPZs. The bright side of the zones, as claimed by the Ma administration, is sure to be a focus for pro-KMT pan-blue media in the run-up to the elections in December next year. Stories like “such and such a company is set to invest tens of billions of New Taiwan dollars in FEPZs” are sure to come to light one after another. Such reports will try to give the impression that these zones are going to transform the nation. They will try to delude voters into believing that the “6-3-3” targets of 6 percent annual economic growth, US$30,000 per capita income and less than 3 percent unemployment that Ma failed to fulfill by his promised deadline last year are finally within arm’s reach. However, once the polls are over all such promises will prove to be as illusory as the TDR has been.
Farmland will be wrecked as it gets gobbled up by another “targeted industry” on the FEPZ list: “value-added agriculture.” Value-added agriculture will entail bringing Chinese agricultural produce into the zones for processing them and selling 10 percent of them on the domestic market. This is simply a disguised way of importing Chinese farm products. Taiwan’s agriculture will be diminished by competing products from China, and that is part of the plan. Taiwan is a country, so it should approach the world with Taiwan as the centerpiece.
It needs straightforward and aboveboard economic policies that promote the nation — policies comparable with the US government’s reindustrialization policy and the “three arrows” that typify Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics.” On the other hand, the kind of development plans that Taiwan definitely does not need are those that cling to the failed mistress economy mindset.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser.
Translated by Julian Clegg