Sun, Jun 09, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Tsai sidesteps question on support for Lai

HURTING UNITY?Former premier William Lai said it was pity that Tsai stressed party unity while refusing to say whether she would support him if he won the primary

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate William Lai, center left, and President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, yesterday greet an audience ahead of the Democratic Progressive Party’s televised presidential primary debate on Chinese Television System.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

As President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former premier William Lai (賴清德) crossed swords on economic issues in a televised platform presentation session yesterday, Tsai sidestepped a question on whether the winner of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) primary could count on the other’s full support.

The question was raised by Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) editor-in-chief Tzou Jiing-wen (鄒景雯), the first of three panelists to ask a question that the presidential hopefuls had four minutes to answer.

Lai said that from the moment he entered the primary, he made it clear that, if he lost, he would accept the outcome and support Tsai, adding that his stance had not changed.

As Tsai had been why the primary’s starting date had been postponed three times and why the rules had changed, she was due to say publicly whether she would support him if he won, Lai said.

The primary is the first in the DPP’s history in which a president seeking re-election faces a challenger from within the party, so it is crucial to think about how to achieve party unity after the primary, Tsai said.

Who represents the DPP would no longer matter after the primary, she said, adding that what would be important is who can best realize the party’s values through the new government, unite party members and attract talent to join the administration.

Taiwan Citizen Front founder and lawyer Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) asked the two whether, if elected, they would significantly increase the minimum monthly wage and lower the quota on foreign workers.

Taiwan’s minimum hourly wage of NT$150 trails behind South Korea’s NT$238 and Japan’s NT$256, while foreign workers make up 5.7 percent of the nation’s workforce, compared with South Korea’s 2 percent and Japan’s 1.6 percent, Lai Chung-chiang said, adding that the chronic problem of low wages has triggered a brain drain, a low birth rate and a rise in populism.

Her administration has placed greater importance on solving the salary issue than any other as shown by raising the minimum wage three times — by 15 percent — Tsai said, adding that her team would propose another minimum wage hike if economic growth permitted it or if a rise in the cost of living warranted it.

Raising the minimum wage benefitted people with the lowest incomes, but a wage hike also needs to consider whether the 1.4 million small and medium-sized companies could afford it, William Lai said.

A good economy justifies a hike, but a weak economy does not mandate an increase, or only a small increase, he said.

Other factors that contribute to low wages are mass-exporting manufacturing to China and the need for businesses to cap personnel costs to retain global competitiveness, so the worth of workers should be increased through education, such as equipping students with skills needed for artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things, he said.

Business Today president Liang Yung-huang (梁永煌) asked the two to list the priorities of their economic platforms.

Local businesses faced with the challenge of new business models or international goliaths must be tackled, followed by attracting investment from local firms based in China amid the US-China trade dispute, William Lai said.

Legislation allowing workers the option to allocate a part of their monthly salary to a bank account as their pension fund would have his support, he said, adding that if necessary, his administration would subsidize such a fund to better provide for workers.

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