The government said it is offering US$3.5 billion in official development assistance (ODA) loans with interest subsidies to help Taiwanese businesses take on large public projects in ASEAN members.
The loans are part of the government’s New Southbound Policy, which focuses on “people” and aims to deepen bilateral exchanges and cultivation of students, academics and industry professionals through government and private sector efforts.
About NT$3 billion (US$99.2 million) in interest rate differential subsidies have also been approved by the government.
The government has been in touch with ASEAN about the possibility of cooperation under ODA projects, a senior Cabinet official said on Saturday.
The government has targeted Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, among other countries, as potential partners, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations is evaluating several development opportunities in ASEAN, where Taiwan is facing competition from South Korea and Japan.
The primary goal of the project is tantamount to lending money to targeted southbound countries for infrastructure projects that they cannot fund themselves, Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) said.
Despite lending out money, what the government is essentially doing is subsidizing the interest rate differential, Deng said.
“For example, after a 20-year contract, the borrower could spread out payments on the principle and the accrued interest. In this way the government can help developers win contract bids for large projects,” Deng said.
Deng said the government is assessing the ability of the nations targeted by the project to repay debt, adding that it would require the countries’ governments to act as guarantors to reduce the risk of delinquency.
The project would function differently from assistance provided to Central American allies, Deng said, adding that it would not become a sinkhole for government funds.
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