Mon, Jul 04, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Government falls short on economics, commentator says

By Tzou Jiing-wen  /  Staff reporter

The government is utterly incapable of maintaining a hold on economic autonomy, political commentator Nan Fang Shuo (南方朔) said.

Nan Fang Shuo said in an interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Wednesday that regardless of how highly the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is praised by the government or how much the Free Independent Traveler (FIT) program for Chinese tourists is played up, both place all hopes of improving the economy squarely on China, and “this is in fact very dangerous.”

A total of 282 Chinese tourists arrived in Taiwan on June 28 under the newly inaugurated FIT program.

However, Nan Fang Shuo said that Hong Kong has a similar trade pact to the ECFA, called the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), and even more independent travelers from China, with more than 25 million annual visitors, but despite this, Hong Kong still has the greatest income disparity in Asia.

The commentator said that while he did not believe that China had any ill intent in signing the CEPA and ECFA, economic behavior is not determined by motives, but by economic structures, and the ECFA has indeed proven not to be good for Taiwan.

With the government thinking only about how to earn money by leaning toward China, it seems no one these days is considering what industries Taiwan should independently develop, Nan Fang Shuo said, adding that he finds that very worrying.

Nan Fang Shuo said the FIT program would create other problems. As Chinese tourists visit Taiwan, he said, night markets might do better and pineapple cake sales might go up, but that will not provide advanced employment opportunities or cause salaries to rise. Company owners will make more money, and the relationship between them and their employees will become more polarized.

Taiwan is currently very similar to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, in that it focuses only on Chinese people. This trend will not lead to increasing salaries, he said.

Because China has a large population, there are many wealthy people there, adding that at present there is more than 800 billion yuan (US$123.7 billion) in “dirty money” outside of China, most of which has probably gone to Hong Kong, he said.

Nan Fang Shuo said the problem with wealthy Chinese people speculating in real estate in Hong Kong and Taipei is that local residents would not be able to buy housing, adding that in many areas, “it seems that Taiwan’s government is emulating the Hong Kong model.”

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