End political spats, fix economy: groups

‘WORRISOME’::Industry leaders joined together to tell officials to stop fighting and restart the ‘idling’ legislature to insulate the economy against impending global risks

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 1

Leaders of the nation’s six main industrial and commercial groups yesterday called on the government to stop engaging in political infighting and focus on reviving economic momentum, citing their concerns that GDP may grow by less than 2 percent this year.

The groups also urged the legislature to start reviewing important bills as soon as possible.

“The current global economic momentum remains insufficient ... there are still huge downside risks in the global economy,” General Chamber of Commerce (全國商業總會) chairman Lawrence Chang (張平沼) told a press conference.

The nation is facing a severe challenge in the recent shutdown in Washington, which could drag the US’ economy down, further slowing global economic momentum, which would in turn hurt Taiwan’s economy, Chang said.

In its latest report, Moody’s Investors Service revised downward its fourth-quarter growth forecast for the US economy to 1.6 percent from 3 percent if the shutdown continues for three to four weeks, Chang said.

The knock-on effects of a US slowdown may see Taiwan’s GDP growth drop below 2 percent this year and next year, Chang said.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) has predicted annual GDP of 2.31 percent this year and 3.37 percent next year.

Various bills related to economic development, including the service trade pact with China and the Agreement between the New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Cooperation, are still sitting in the legislature due to the ongoing political stalemate in Taipei, Chang said, adding that delaying these bills’ passage may negatively impact the nation’s pace of liberalization and globalization.

Given this, the nation should accelerate the pace at which it develops high-value added products and provide state funding for local companies to purchase patents, said Kenneth Lo (駱錦明), chairman of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce (工商協進會).

Chinese National Federation of Industries (全國工業總會) chairman Rock Hsu (許勝雄) said the leaders of the nation’s six main industrial and commercial groups are ready to meet with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), as well as representatives of party caucuses, to share their opinions about Taiwan’s economic future.

“It’s very worrisome,” Hsu said about the “idling” legislature, arguing that a lack of foresight among lawmakers could rob the economy of any momentum up through next year.

Regular legislative activities cannot proceed until Jiang gives a policy report — a move that has been blocked repeatedly by opposition lawmakers.

The lack of progress could be cause for another downgrade in annual GDP growth, Hsu said.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) addressed some of the trade groups’ concerns through a spokesperson.

The president has called for “pushing ahead with policy” with the aim of maintaining political stability, Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chai-fei (李佳霏) said.

Ma said the service trade pact was in particular need of attention, as its passage could boost the economy, create jobs and attract international partners, Li said.

Additional reporting by CNA