Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Business groups' response mixed on referendum law

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's business community yesterday expressed grudging support for the legislature's passage of a referendum bill among worries over possible resulting cross-strait tension.

"Referendums help resolve legislative standoffs, ushering in an era of direct democracy in Taiwan," Day Sheng-tung (戴勝通), chairman of the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (中小企業協會), said yesterday.

Day said that referendums would help achieve political consensus among the public in a divided country like Taiwan, which he said could be expected to be good for the local economy.

"More focus will then be put on economic endeavors rather than political infighting," he added.

Other business groups, however, expressed a more cautious view.

"As long as the principle of political stability is upheld, businessmen don't have much of an opinion," said Chen Cheng-yi (陳正毅), spokesman for the General Chamber of Commerce (全國商總), which is chaired by the head of Eastern Multimedia Corp (東森集團), Gary Wang (王令麟).

Following the law's passage, which opposition parities dominated yesterday, Chen said that he hopes that no lingering standoffs between the executive and the legislative branches will take place despite Premier Yu Shyi-kun having previously threatened a Cabinet veto to the bill if approved clauses impose too many restrictions on referendum initiatives.

"Even if the premier plans to open another round of voting, his administration should follow due processes in a lawful way," Chen added, hoping politicians could put ideological differences aside to jointly address economic issues.

Theodore Huang (黃茂雄), chairman of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, has said on several occasions that the group had no problem with the bills as long as no social turmoil followed its passage.

But a senior entrepreneur, who requested anonymity, thought little of the bill, seeing it more as a strategy game between the major parties.

"You should not take the bill too seriously," he said. "Its significance lies more in a sense that the pan-blue camp trumped the Democratic Progressive Party's campaign ace."

The bill has fueled political tension and will continue to be a centerpiece of the campaign leading up to the presidential election next March. The entrepreneur said he expected this to have a negative impact on the local economy.

Most businessmen yesterday refused to speculate on how outraged China would be over the bill's passage and the effect of that on cross-strait trade relations.

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