President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday urged the Legislative Yuan to pass the six financial laws in its provisional session next week and to make agricultural finance reform its top priority.
In a meeting at the Presidential Office with officials from farmers' associations, Chen called on lawmakers to make an agricultural reform law a priority for the special session and restated the government's determination to carry out the reform of the nation's financial system.
Chen said the legislature had originally planned to cut the credit units of farmers' and fishermen's associations and have state-run banks take over their business, but the government was obliged to adjust its reform direction based on the "tradition, history and mission of the 100-year-old credit units of the farmers' and fishermen's associations."
He said the massive protest last year that resulted in the earlier reform effort failing does not mean the government will give up on reform.
"The consolidation of agricultural finance is definitely good for the farmers' and fishermen's associations," he said. "Taiwan's financial environment will be opened increasingly in the future, and the credit units under the farmers' and fishermen's associations will be a part of the financial system."
He said the role of these credit units cannot be handled by ordinary financial institutions, adding the government wants to improve the health of the farmers' and fishermen's associations and their financial units.
Chen also pointed to Hong Kong's plans to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, saying more than 500,000 of the territory's citizens protested against the law because it would lead Hong Kong back to authoritarianism.
"To survive in the world and not to advance is to go back," Chen said. "This is also true for Taiwan. If we don't proceed with financial reform, foreign funds will not flow in Taiwan, The country's economy will not be competitive and we will be eliminated through competition in the international community."
Chen said the government must do three things: equally emphasize production and marketing, continue to improve the organization and function of farmers' and fishermen's associations, and resolve the problems facing agricultural finance as soon as possible.
"The reform certainly will come at a price," he said.
The government wants to respond to the demands of the protesters last year, Chen said, calling on the DPP and opposition parties to pass the agricultural finance legislation in the provisional session.
Each day the six financial laws are delayed is a day Taiwan falls behind other countries, he said.