Sun, Jun 22, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Rational debate on zones needed

By William Lai 賴清德

These same concerns will also apply to all the current agricultural, industrial and science parks, as well as the goods-for-export processing zones, if they are allowed to be designated as free economic pilot zones, too. Implementing all of this will be an administrative nightmare.

Finally, the “shop in front, factory in the rear” virtual zones described in the draft will mean there is precious little distinction between how firms for which the more lax special regulations apply and those for which the normal regulations apply, almost to the extent that one company could be said to be operating within both systems.

Not only does this run counter to the regulatory principle of clearly differentiated treatment, it is also substantially different to how things are being done in overseas success stories like Singapore, or even the Shanghai free-trade zone. It is entirely predictable that this will only lead to confusion and, ultimately, failure.

The free economic pilot zone proposal is an import facet of Taiwan’s industrial policy promoting further liberalization and internationalization. The fact that the Greater Tainan government applied for designation as a free trade port and as a free economic pilot zone does not mean that we necessarily have to accept everything in the government’s draft regulations without question, or that we cannot express our concerns about any stipulations in the draft that make no sense.

Government policy is implemented through legislation, and so it is imperative that we engage in rational debate about how this legislation is formulated, to ensure that we end up with legislation that can truly be beneficial to Taiwan’s economic prospects. Whatever happens, we must not let the process descend into a game of politics in the run-up to elections, for if we do, it will be ordinary Taiwanese who suffer.

William Lai is the mayor of Greater Tainan.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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