The People First Party (PFP) caucus yesterday said that the Tsai Ing-wen administration’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy” is ill-fated and simply “old wine in new wineskins,” citing the Executive Yuan’s development plan showing only a meager fraction of the government’s budget for the policy is being earmarked to develop small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Speaking at a news conference in Taipei yesterday, PFP caucus convener Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that while the Executive Yuan has earmarked NT$4.2 billion (US$132.54 million) to promote the policy, a breakdown of the budget raises doubts over whether it could ensure the sustainable operations of Taiwanese businesspeople if they do “go south.”
Of the NT$4.2 billion budget, a little more than NT$1.5 billion is allocated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, but the ministry only plans to use NT$4.17 million of the total to assist Taiwanese businesspeople with global strategic planning efforts and another NT$6 million for strategic planning in Southeast Asia, Lee said.
“That means only about NT$10 million — a tiny fraction — of the budget would actually go to helping SMEs start businesses abroad. How could that be enough for them to go global or go south?” Lee said.
Lee also said that periodic anti-Chinese protests in Southeast Asian countries are a possible impediment to the southbound policy, citing as an example the 2014 anti-China riots in Vietnam prompted by China’s deployment of an oil rig near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).
The protests wreaked damage on the businesses of “almost every Taiwanese businessperson based there,” Lee said.
It seems that such protests occur once every four to five years, Lee said, adding that the PFP caucus is not opposed to the nation looking south, but that the party simply hopes that the government can look at the issues raised from the right perspective.
“Also, Tsai’s administration should look into and analyze the reasons for the failure for her predecessors’ southbound policies,” Lee added.
PFP Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) said that as New Southbound Policy Office Director James Huang (黃志芳) has reportedly been tapped as the nation’s representative to Singapore, Tsai should consider putting Premier Lin Chuan (林全) or the National Development Council in charge of the office.
Established in June as part of Tsai’s plan to promote trade and economic ties with other nations in Southeast Asia, the New Southbound Policy Office is run by the Presidential Office.
The post in Singapore reportedly to be filled by Huang was left vacant after prominent journalist and political commentator Antonio Chiang (江春男) resigned from the position after being embroiled in a drunk-driving scandal last month.