President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday lauded the government's consumer voucher program, despite a Ministry of Audit report this week questioning the effectiveness of the scheme.
The ministry's Audit Report 2008 identified several flaws in government spending, including the NT$3,600 consumer vouchers that were issued to eligible residents ahead of the Lunar New Year. The report said the policy was cooked up in a hasty manner and its effects remained to be seen.
However, Ma did not mention the ministry's report during his meeting with the board of directors of the Chinese National Federation of Industries at the Presidential Office yesterday.
Ma told the guests that the consumer vouchers “have reached the target of boosting GDP by 0.6 percentage points” and that they helped stimulate consumer spending.
“Public support for the vouchers is high. The vouchers were issued at the right time — right before the Lunar New Year. They have benefited the leisure, wholesale and general merchandise sectors,” Ma said. “When I visited places around the country, everybody asked me to do it again. Some even said they should be issued three times a year.”
The president said as the program had “achieved its objective” and consumer confidence had been restored, it was not necessary to issue vouchers again.
He added that the program was proof that the government was willing to do everything it could to solve the economic problems.
Ma said the economy had touched bottom and could recover and return to growth in the fourth quarter.
Ma attributed the “breakthrough “to his sound economic policies, including expanding domestic demand and stimulating public consumption.
He also touted his cross-strait policy, saying if relations had not improved, the country would have suffered more during the economic crisis.
“I am not saying that we can rely solely on the mainland to resolve all of our problems,” he said. “We must also reach out to the US, Japan and Europe, as well as such emerging markets as Indonesia, Russian, India and Brazil.”
The global financial storm has given the administration the opportunity to pursue industrial diversification, Ma said.
Ma said he hoped that the six niche industries the government intends to promote would contribute NT$1.3 trillion (US$40 billion) to the economy and generate 700,000 jobs over the next three years.
The niche industries are green energy, biotechnology, tourism, healthcare, refined agriculture, and culture and creativity.