Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers and the Executive Yuan yesterday engaged in a war of words about whether Taiwan had become “the most miserable country in the Four Asian Tigers,” as reported in the media.
After the unemployment rate last month rose to 4.4 percent, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported yesterday that Taiwan’s “misery index,” the sum of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate, was now at 7.82, the highest among the four Asian Tigers — South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Its front-page article was headlined: “Taiwan becomes the most miserable country.”
Published after the release of the unemployment rate for last month by the Director-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics (DGBAS) yesterday, the newspaper estimated that the country’s misery index stood at 7.82 percent last month.
The number of unemployed people reached 502,000 last month, an increase of 12,000 from the previous month, primarily because there were 8,000 more first-time job seekers who were unemployed than in July, the DGBAS said.
Also, the number of workers laid off rose by 3,000 from July, as more companies downsized their operations or went out of business because of the sluggish economy.
Taiwan’s misery index was higher than the 7.3 percent recorded in Singapore in June, 6.9 percent in Hong Kong last month and 4.2 percent in South Korea last month, the newspaper said.
Taiwan’s misery index for last month rose to 7.82 percent, the sum of the 3.42 percent year-on-year increase in the consumer price index (CPI) registered that month and an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, up from 4.31 percent in July, the basis used by the newspaper in its estimation of the nation’s misery index.
DPP Legislator Pen Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference that everyone was feeling the miserable effect of Premier Sean Chen’s (陳冲) “sensible economy.”
“In just over five years, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has made Taiwan the most miserable country in Asia,” Pan said.
Pan said the practice of forcing workers to go on involuntary furlough had re-emerged in Taiwan, particularly in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市), and the phenomenon would likely further jeopardize the livelihood of young people.
“To assuage Taiwan’s misery, Ma has to make things happen quick,” Pan said.
“We have seen the Ma administration hold various meetings every week to save the economy. What we have not seen is a clear direction or national policy to improve the struggling economy,” DPP Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) said.
Citing the US as an example, Hsu said US President Barack Obama had initiated a re-industrialization plan to create jobs for US citizens.
“Where is Ma’s plan?” he asked.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) dismissed the reports that Taiwan was the worst performer among the Four Asian Tigers.
“Taiwan’s misery index still remains the lowest among Four Asian Tigers,” Hu said, in response to the Apple Daily.
However, the data cited by Hu in his response to the report concerned the misery indexes for last year, for the first quarter and the second quarter of this year.
Last year, Taiwan had the lowest misery index of 5.8 percent, compared with 8.7 percent in Hong Kong, 7.4 percent in South Korea and 7.2 percent in Singapore, he said, adding that Taiwan managed to keep maintain the lowest misery index in the first quarter this year.