Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet reveals new plan to stimulate development

CNA , TAIPEI

The government has drafted a special bill on a five-year, NT$500 billion stimulus plan aimed at propping up Taiwan's sustainable development, Vice Premier Lin Hsin-i (林信義) said yesterday.

"The Cabinet will refer the draft bill to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation before the end of this month," Lin said, adding that he hopes the legislature can approve the special bill as early as possible to facilitate the launch of 10 new major construction projects.

Once the bill clears the legislative floor, Lin said, the Cabinet will come up with a relevant budget bill which will detail how the government will raise funds for the new projects.

According to Lin, the 10 new construction projects will include building three artificial lakes, transforming the existing Taiwan railway into regional mass rapid transit (MRT) systems and constructing industrial parks along the high-speed railway, which is scheduled to become operational in 2005.

Also among the projects are the construction of nursing homes for the elderly, a national arts center in Kaohsiung, a third national theater in northern Taiwan, a Guggenheim museum branch in Taichung, pop-concert halls in various parts of the island, sewers, wind power generators, and new round-the-island highways.

The ambitious stimulus plan also includes upgrading Taiwan's university education system and holding a Taiwan Expo trade fair.

Lin said some of the projects, such as construction of wind power generators, elderly nursing homes, sewers and artificial lakes, will be carried out under a BOT (build-operate-transfer) formula in which private investors will be allowed to construct and operate the projects.

"We are hopeful that the government's NT$500 billion investment will attract another NT$500 billion from the private sector to beef up our overall economic strength," Lin said.

Because of changing economic climates at home and abroad, Lin said, the domestic investment rate has declined steadily over the past three years. Government investment in infrastructure construction has also decreased steadily, from NT$761.9 billion in 1999 to NT$635.5 billion in 2002.

In the face of sluggish domestic demand, Lin said, it is necessary for the country to raise the legal ceiling on public debt to increase public investments and help stimulate domestic demand.

Noting that the IMF has issued a warning that Taiwan may be gripped by deflation, Lin said the government must act quickly to stave off such an adverse scenario.

With Taiwan's population aging, Lin said, the government will encourage private investment in elderly caregiving services. For instance, he said, the Veterans Affairs Commission is expected to provide a piece of land in Ilan for construction of a nursing home for senior citizens.

In an effort to upgrade the quality of life, Lin said, the government will encourage private investments in sewer construction under a BOT formula.

Meanwhile, Lin said yesterday that the government is more than half way to achieving its goal of attracting NT$100 billion (US$2.96 billion) in foreign investment ahead of a investment-promotion conference in late October.

In an interview, Lin said that the government has already approved 107 foreign investment projects with a combined investment value of NT$66 billion (US$1.95 billion). The investment-promotion conference is scheduled for Oct. 19.

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