2006-08-26

The lesson of Taiwan

Much has been said about how Taiwan' economy went into the doldrums since 2000, coincidentally after Chen Shui Bian took control of the government. While it is clear that the DPP government was initially inexperienced and has been bogged down by ideology, there are so many factors (both internal and external) that could influence the economic development, it is impossible to pinpoint conclusively that it is a result of government incompetence or its ostensible denial of the China factor.

To be sure, Lee Tenghui's KMT government in the 1990s also discouraged investment in the mainland. Therefore, one cannot simply blame CSB's interference for the deterioration since he took over. However, in 1990s Lee's regime needed to deal with the opposition inside KMT and the "anti-China" factions had not consolidated their power base yet. So the damage LTH's government could inflict was much smaller than CSB's.

The often cited defense for CSB were external factors such as the tech crash between 2000-2002. However, one only needs to compare Taiwan with Korea (which has a similar industry and economic profile and exposure to tech sector) to refute such apologies.

As a believer in free market economy, I think any interference from the goverment (whether retricting or forcing business to go to any market, China or SE Asia) is a bad thing. Decisions are better left to the business owners themselves. To further elaborate on this point, Associate Professor Hong Lung-tsai of Taiwan Economic Research Institute offered some great analysis in today's Apple Daily Taiwan (also cached below)
  • Frequent change in leadership (i.e. Minister of Economy) paralyse long term policy, if there is any
  • Political appeals lead to emphasis on redistribution of wealth [one should not blame DPP for this, as this is typical of any democracy]
  • Vicious circle of outsourcing research of economic policies to under-funded external think tanks, resulting in decline in quality [the author noted this is also not entirely DPP's fault, as it merely followed KMT practice. But the author weighed in to say that the problem was obvious that DPP should have done something to change that]
Hong finally talked about the China investment issue. He wrote, "Large amount of overseas investment has its pros and cons, but if the profit cannot be repatriated to home, this is defintely a minus. Today 70% of Taiwan's investment outside the island concentrates in the mainland China market, the government has imposed various restrictions to these investment [and re-investment] and the result is that enterprises become reluctant and unwilling to repatriate profit back to Taiwan [scared by the restriction imposed upon them when re-investment is needed], this exacerbates the negative impact of Taiwan's external investment."

Hong is right. For every restriction a bureacracy impose, there is a trick to bypass invented by savy businessmen. Result: bureacratic objective fails, but cost of operation for businesses hikes. Taiwan's restriction in mainland investment (40% of net asset) has led to the effect diametrially opposite to its objective, i.e. profits will stay in the mainland. In addition, capital employment by Taiwanese companies become less efficient, as effort was spent on working against the restriction. This lesson has been learned many times by the CCP government in the mainland (上有政策,下有对策) and it seems now that CCP has finally got it. Unfortunately, as long as political ideology continues to overshadow pragmatism in Taiwan, CSB's government has no incentive to fix the economy. Nor will KMT (as it now seems very likely to win in 2008) care much when it takes rein in future.

-----
715觀點 民進黨政治經驗害了經濟

民進黨的經濟政策向來被認為是最薄弱與模糊的一環。原因固然多端,但絕對與該黨在取得政權的過程中,藉由「認同政治」與「解構黨國資本主義」兩項訴求即可輕易得分的經驗高度相關,導致更須耗時費力以求細膩的「政策研議與注意力」普遍不足。

而對經濟事務的不夠嫻熟,好的經濟政策每多訴諸長期才能奏效,以及經濟政策往往涉及財富重分配等,都是促使善打政治算盤的民進黨,在經濟領域著力不深與避重就輕的根本原因。
換句話說,民進黨經濟政策的薄弱與模糊,不僅有其客觀限制與歷史成因,部分因素也出自理性計算下的刻意忽略。

頻換部長抵銷優勢
然而,不重視經濟政策此一執政前不失分的特點,一旦當家執政後卻面臨嚴重考驗,而不曉得如何替自己的經濟政策與執政績效辯護,還只是所有後遺症裡面最輕微的一項。所以到現在還可以聽到執政大員的辯辭:外匯存底在民進黨執政之後有增加多少。其實過多的外匯存底正意味著該國的資源配置出現問題呢。
至於執政之後所獲得的行政體系支援優勢,卻也由於頻換內閣與財經部長而受到抵銷。
此外,由於政府各部會本身的政策研析能力有限,重大經濟政策分析與研擬多半委託國內「智庫」加以處理。這種大量將「公共政策商業化」的模式,不僅舉世罕見,也迫使自有財源嚴重不足的國內智庫必須承接更多研究案來維持營運,往往造成研究品質堪慮與政策形成過程缺乏嚴謹支撐。當然,民進黨並非此一原本不該有狀況的始作俑者,但在台灣面臨全球化與中國崛起等兩大力道分合夾擊時,民進黨政府卻仍放任國內政策研究環境持續惡化,不知或不思改善之道,可謂難辭其咎。
台灣經濟成長趨緩已是不爭事實,從2000至2005年以來,平均每年經濟成長率已降至3.57%,低於全球的每年平均3.88%。經濟成長遇到瓶頸乃事屬必然,但在四小龍當中也「系統性」的殿後,顯然已見警訊。而一旦經濟成長趨緩,不僅會降低國內投資意願,影響未來經濟成長,形成惡性循環,同時也將加速國內廠商產業外移。
而為全球化與中國經濟崛起所誘發、劇烈且近乎全面的產業外移,已然構成台灣經濟社會最嚴酷的挑戰,包括產業如何升級並填補,尤其是高品質與高生產力的服務業之出現。
台灣對外投資的金額累計已高達GDP(Gross Domestic Product,GDP)的4成(南韓只有6%),不僅高於世界平均的24%,也大過工業國家的30%,而和歐盟國家相當。唯須注意的是,工業國家的對外投資多半屬於購併行為,而台灣絕大部分都是新創設的對外投資。這也隱含著台灣的對外投資模式,對本國經濟所產生的衝擊必然相當深遠。
大量的海外投資利弊互見,但如果對外投資的利潤未能匯回母國,卻絕對不利。而目前台灣的對外投資7成以上集中在中國一地,加上由於政府的各種限制造成台商不願輕易將利潤回流台灣,此一局面也加深了台灣對外投資對於本地經濟的不利影響。民進黨的國家安全思維的確用心良苦,但管制政策務必符合經濟邏輯,否則說服不了別人,尤其是在當今,「對外投資」往往成為企業重要發展策略的全球化年代。

實質工資成長率低
最後,產業外移所引發的分配議題也不容等閒視之。近年來台灣實質工資的成長率比經濟成長率更低,也意味著所得分配惡化,部分原因即在於不具「跨國移動」優勢,特別是低階技術勞工,相當容易受到產業外移的負面影響,包括必須接受其他行業的較低工資甚至失業。
從這個角度來看,擴大內部照顧,藉由完善的社會安全制度來加大對外經貿開放空間,不失為一種兼具公平與效率的經濟政策。

作者為台灣經濟研究院副研究員 洪財隆
Categories:

5 comments:

Tower of Babel said...

Sunbin,

I'd like to send you an email, but I couldn't find an address on your blog.

Sun Bin said...

please send to
sunbinblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tower of Babel said...

Thank you.

Sun Bin said...

I got your email.

dghnfgj said...

This momentousdecree warcraft leveling came as a great beacon light wow lvl of hope to millions of negroslaves wow power level who had been seared power leveling in the flames of power leveling withering wrath of the lich king power leveling injustice.wrath of the lich king power leveling it came as a WOTLK Power Leveling joyous daybreak to end the long WOTLK Power Leveling night ofcaptivity.WOTLK Power Leveling but one hundred years wlk power leveling later, we must face aoc gold the tragic fact thatthe age of conan power leveling negro is still not free. aoc power leveling one hundred years later,age of conan power leveling the lifeof the negro ffxi gil is still sadly crippled by the final fantasy xi gil manacles ofsegregation guild wars gold and the chains of discrimination. one hundred yearslater, maplestory mesos the negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in themidst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.dog clothes one hundred yearslater, the negro is still languishing in the corners of americansociety and finds himself an exile in his own land.