President Tsai vows to turn Taiwan into ‘Asian tiger’ again

President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to turn Taiwan into "an Asian tiger again" in an article she wrote for the Economist's special edition, "the World In 2017," in which she lays out her reform plans for the coming year.

Taiwan was a bright light in a sea of darkness, but lately, many Taiwanese feel that bright light has dimmed amid an uncertain global environment, she wrote in the article.

Tsai, who was elected Taiwan's first female president in January, said she assumed her duties as Taiwan's leader at a time of vast economic and political challenges, including slow economic growth, rising inequality and new security threats that are testing the world.

"Taiwan, no less than other countries, will be defined by how it responds to these difficulties," said Tsai, who was inaugurated in May.

Noting that her Democratic Progressive Party also holds a majority in the country's Legislature, the president said "we want to make Taiwan an Asian tiger once again."

"My plan for 2017 is for Taiwan to renew its role as a pioneer, preserving our basic social safety net while revitalizing the economy with a new development model," she said.

To that end, her administration will "simultaneously work to reform political institutions, ensuring that economic and social transformations are combined with transparency and a strong democratic culture," she said.

To bolster the social safety net, Tsai wrote that her administration is pushing for pension reform aimed at creating a sustainable system and increasing support for the poorest in society.

Noting that the proportion of income spent on housing by Taiwanese has risen sharply amid a real-estate bubble, she said her administration will work to provide 200,000 units of affordable social housing by 2024 via a public-private investment plan.

In response to an aging population, her government will also build new community centers to take care of senior citizens, she said. "Our overall goal is to redistribute public resources for a fairer welfare system," she wrote.

Her economic plan for 2017 focuses on upgrading industries and overcoming stagnation, by laying the groundwork for a more inclusive economic model based on innovation, job creation and the idea that growth should benefit all, not just a few, she said.

"Through smart investment, the government is integrating public, private and global resources to nurture industries of the future: the 'internet of things,' biotechnology, smart machinery, green energy and defense," she said.

Her government is also working to refine Taiwan's capital market and make financial policy more inviting to innovation-oriented foreign investment, provide greater support to entrepreneurs and tech startups, and loosen regulations on foreign professionals, she said.

It is also important to help open new markets for Taiwanese products and services, she said, noting that she hopes to increase engagement with countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand under the "New Southbound Policy."

In terms of regional economic integration, she said that Taiwan "will seek accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership if and when it becomes available. We are also working towards bilateral agreements with important trading partners," without indicating which ones.

Tsai said these all depend on a stable regional environment, and she pledged to seek dialogue with all interested parties, including China, to build a framework for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

"My cross-strait policy is to establish consistent, predictable and �sustainable relations under the existing constit�utional framework," she said.

Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong were called the "Four Asian Tigers" from the 1970s to the 1990s because of their rapid economic growth through industrialization and the development of the high-tech sector.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council