Mon, Aug 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Complicated laws scare off foreign specialists

By Wei Shih-chang 魏世昌

In 2009, the government introduced the Plum Blossom Card to encourage foreign investors who meet certain criteria to move to Taiwan and apply for permanent residency.

The media have reported that although Taiwan’s requirements for foreign investment-related residency are lower than those in neighboring countries and regions, the Legislative Yuan’s Budgetary Research Center says that only 19 such applications have been approved since the program was introduced a decade ago.

As foreign investment in Taiwan has shrunk in the past few years, and in reaction to the US-China trade dispute, the legislature last month passed the Act on the Use of and Taxation on Inward Remittances of Overseas Funds (境外資金匯回管理運用及課稅條例).

The act offers preferential tax rates to encourage Taiwanese businesspeople to repatriate their overseas funds to Taiwan.

According to estimates by the Ministry of Finance, inward remittances of overseas funds could exceed NT$800 billion (US$25.5 billion) this year, while the Ministry of Economic Affairs offers a slightly more conservative estimate of NT$700 billion.

Minister Without Portfolio Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said that by 2025 the amount of funds repatriated by Taiwanese businesses could exceed NT$4 trillion.

What ails Taiwan is not a lack of funds, but rather a lack of advanced white-collar professionals, and people with advanced technical skills and research and development expertise.

The biggest obstacle to Taiwan’s industrial transformation is the lack of talented people possessing the right skills.

To improve the situation, businesses should do what they can to keep outstanding local talent in Taiwan by offering competitive salaries and benefits, while the government should recruit foreign professionals to bring more international talent to Taiwan.

This is crucial to enhancing Taiwan’s international competitiveness. Foreign businesses would see Taiwan in a more positive light and might expand their investment in the nation, which is equally important.

Taiwan has at least four laws relevant to the recruitment of foreign talent: the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals (外國專業人才延攬及僱用法), the draft new economic immigration act, the Employment Service Act (就業服務法) and the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法).

However, the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan’s position paper last year said that although the government introduced the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals and the draft new economic immigration act, the two overlap and are needlessly complicated — even for Taiwanese, they are difficult to understand.

Not even having those laws translated into English is likely to solve the problem, as they might still be too complicated and put off foreign talent considering coming to Taiwan.

The government should simplify and adjust the laws, perhaps by referencing the policies of Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea to see how they go about attracting foreign professionals.

Wei Shih-chang is an engineer.

Translated by Lin Lee-kai

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