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'Forward-looking' Project is for Taiwan's future: premier

2017/08/22 09:12:46

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) Facing public criticism over the government's large-scale infrastructure program, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said recently that it was formulated not for the goal of stimulating economic growth but to give Taiwan a better future.

"If this construction or investment has to be done sooner or later, it's better to do it sooner," said Lin in a recent interview with CNA.

If the economy becomes better during the process of implementing the project, then that would be an extra benefit, Lin said when answering questions about the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Project, which has a four-year NT$420 billion budget.

The project's value cannot be judged by how much it will help increase the country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth, but by "whether or not it can help the industrial development and national construction of Taiwan in the future," Lin said.

That emphasis seems to have shifted since Lin's Cabinet approved the program in March 2017 when it was billed as an eight-year NT$882 billion program.

At the time, Lin stressed that the plan would increase real GDP by NT$975.9 billion and said he hoped to use fiscal policy effectively at a time of economic sluggishness to allow the government to play an expansionary and stimulative economic role.

In his interview with CNA on Aug. 16, however, Lin said the GDP growth resulting from government investment will be limited, but argued that it will lead to an "unlimited" industrial effect, such as investment in green energy.

He contended that spending a mere several hundred billion Taiwan dollars in the governmental investment project will generate private investment of up to NT$1 trillion.

The infrastructure development project is the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration's key economic policy aimed at building the infrastructure the country will need for its national development in the next three decades, according to the National Development Council.

The Legislature passed special statutes for the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development program in July to allow investment in a wide range of industries, including rail transportation, water environment, urban and rural development, digital development and green energy.

The expensive project has been controversial since it was proposed by Lin's Cabinet early this year not only because of the high price tag but also because of concerns that it is not forward-looking and invests money in projects with only very limited payback.

(By Ku Chuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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