PD Correspondent's Personal Experience of Taiwan Economic Situation

The following report by People's Daily correspondent Lian Jintian is slightly abridged and published on Page 3 of People's Daily (Overseas Edition) November 6.

There is a quality product street in Taichung city, when night falls, vendors from all directions gather here to set up their stalls around a fine-quality shop.

I talked with a vendor Mr. Zheng who was selling handbags. Originally he was doing well in a science and technology trading company, after the closure of the company he stayed at home for several months. He found he couldn't sit at home eating away his resources, so he screwed up his courage to set up a stall in order to eke out a living.

When he saw there were more and more stalls on the street, he became somewhat anxious. "With one jobless person added, I'll have one more opponent. I am not the only one in such a situation, a friend who sells noodle at the night market was originally the only noodle vendor, but now the number has "grown" to three. In the past he sold 30-40 bowls of noodle a night, now the number has decreased to 10-20 bowls." He added: at present, the night market ends earlier than before. In the past there were still throngs of customers even at mid-night, but now the number is much smaller.

520,000 Jobless People

During our visit in Taiwan, the statistics released by the Taiwan "Administrative Yuan" showed that the unemployment rate this September stood at 5.26 percent, with the unemployed population reaching 520,000, rising for 13 months in a row. Over the past year, the suspension or entrenchment of business in workshops resulted from economic cycling factors has caused 158,000 people to lose their means of livelihood, these people are mostly family hosts in their prime of life.

The wave of unemployment has swept the traditional industries, recently high-tech industries can't escape the wave by sheer luck. The number of unemployed in Hsinchu, an important science and technology town, has increased dramatically. The number of staff in the Xinzhu Science Industrial Park has decreased by 800 people each month since August last year. The Philip Company financed by a Dutch businessman was closed in the first half of this year, rendering more than 800 people jobless, the US-Taiwan Telecom cut the staff by 325, there are many electronic companies which have each dismissed dozens of staff members. Integrated circuit, computer and related industries, photoelectric, precision machinery and other trades have witnessed a double-digit negative growth in their monthly businesses.

There is still no sign of economic recovery, even the employed have reduced their expenditures. There are many fresh flower shops near Ren'ai road in Taipei, but few customers come to buy, a staff member told us young people in love had to carefully plan their budget, young men seldom present fresh flowers to their girl friends.

Ms Liu who showed us around said: the Changrong Airlines where her schoolmate was working had cut the number of airline hostesses by hundreds. In some cases, a decision was made today, the hostess concerned was notified the same day, then she was not required to come tomorrow. After they were "laid off", the only thing they could do was to set up stalls. In most cases, enterprises reduced salaries for their employees. Labor-capital disputes often occurred as a result of arrears pay.

As year-end election in Taiwan was upcoming, politicians were seen everywhere campaigning for the election, but due to reduction in funds raised, publicity and advertising were not so lively as before. Flag sellers also lamented that their business was sluggish. A woman candidate for a "legislative member" said she would tide over the difficult period with the electors and would cut clothing expenses, so when she appeared on the scene, she put on her old clothes. An old publisher said that he would work hard to put out one book in three days, despite his painstaking efforts, he still suffers a loss this year.

"Prosperity" Seen Objectively

"Through several days of visit in Taiwan, I have come to the understand the meaning of the term 'prosperity', said the author. The economic slump has affected thousands of households, but economic sluggishness not necessarily means a scene of depression, nor does it mean that people are lacking money, many enterprises still stand firm, vehicles running on the highway are mostly luxurious imported cars.

Although there are not many high-rise buildings in Taiwan, infrastructures are complete, facilities are advanced and the qualities of personnel are high. Taiwan's enterprises and institutions are seen everywhere that have passed international quality check and are highly competitive. There are fewer customers found in department stores and restaurants and other catering services, presenting a cool and quiet scene. The high growth over the past decades, however, has accumulated a rich store of wealth for Taiwan society, and there are abundant funds for the people to put in the operation of businesses.

Striving for Economic Recovery Instead of Admitting Defeat

Taiwan people are good at management, the phrase "There is no fear of depression, but rather fear of the lack of courage to make a good showing" is an expression of the spirit of striving for economic recovery instead of admitting failure.

We came to Jijizhen Town in the "September 21 earthquake" worst disaster area in the central part of Taiwan, at the time houses here collapsed and rail tracks twisted. Jijizhen Town, after rebuilt, has become a famous tourist hot spot for geological education and has thus led to the prosperity of the area. Thanks to its distinguishing characteristics, tourists were coming in a steady stream, the local flavor snacks street near the railway station enjoys a blooming business. Beipu Township of Hsinchu County has in recent years taken advantage of its cultural relic resources to develop Hakkas cultural tourism which is now prospering. Economic depression has caused impact on news media.

Some old-brand newspapers have collapsed due to financial difficulties caused by reduction in income from advertisement. News about TV stations reducing the number of employees is heard from time to time. We visited a newspaper office in southern Taiwan which suffered losses for the first time over the past 40 years, as a result, competition among mass media has become fiercer and efficiency higher. Taiwan's United Daily Paper is one of the most efficient newspapers in the Island, we can read everyday newspaper on the morning. The local China Broadcasting Corporation has newly opened up new channels to the liking of many young people, which has resulted in the sharp rise of advertisements. The United Daily Paper has set up a transport company, the China Broadcasting Corporation has also recently invested 300 million Taiwan dollars in fitting up and operating a restaurant with 150 KTV, the largest in Asia, which enjoys a brisk business.

At present, people of various social circles in Taiwan are seeking ways to shake off economic difficulties. At the recent "economic development conference", consensus was reached on over 300 items, including relaxation of the "no haste, be patient" principle, but to no avail. While talking with us, an economist said: "I used to think that economic problems should be solved by economic means, but this time it is different, Taiwan's economic slide is not an entirely economic problem, if the local authorities fail to make ideological adjustment and follow the cross-Strait cooperation 'win-win' road, Taiwan will lose even more opportunities."

In the opinion of many scholars on the Island, Lee Teng-hui slights the Chinese mainland, makes a miscalculation of the mainland economy, and isolates himself from the mainland , his actions have brought economic loss to Taiwan people's livelihood. For the fundamental interests of the Taiwan people, people earnestly hope for improving the relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, so as to revive Taiwan's economy.

By People's Daily Online Staff

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