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Cabinet eyes NT$200 billion from returning firms

As part of its efforts to get Taiwan out of its dire economic situation, the Executive Yuan yesterday announced a plan to lure back NT$200 billion in overseas Taiwanese business investment over the next two years.

Cabinet spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said that, if successful, the plan would also create 82,000 jobs and generate an overall output of over NT$300 billion.

The measures, which will take effect today, include increased capacity for foreign labor, information on land management, customized business loans, tax incentives and an effective single-service platform for all investors.

Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) emphasized that though it is a short-term plan with a three-year timeframe, it is an important one and requires the joint efforts of government and business.

President Ma Ying-jeou said that, with the shifting business model of mainland China, now is the perfect time to attract Taiwanese business investment.

"A lot of entrepreneurs are thinking of relocating to Vietnam or Indonesia. If we take the opportunity to reform our investment environment, there is a big chance our investors will choose Taiwan," he said

Dual Minimum Wage System, More Foreign Workers Needed: Expert

According to Deputy Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Wu Ming-ji (吳明機), the biggest obstacle in luring back local entrepreneurs is the cost of labor.

As an incentive, the government has decided to raise the foreign worker per company limit, although Cheng declined to make comments on the possibilities of separated minimum wages.

"The maximum proportion of foreign workers in certain companies has expanded to 40 percent, but it is only under the condition that the number of domestic laborers employed does not shrink," Wu said.

World Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce (WTCC) President Lee Fan-hsin (李芳信) said that having separate minimum wages for foreign and domestic workers was essential to the development of emerging businesses.

"Many countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore, have dual-track wage systems. This is the time for Taiwan to establish itself as an internationalized, free market," Lee said.

Despite protests that a dual-track system would severely disadvantage domestic workers, Chairman of the Catcher Technology Co. Hung Shui-shu (洪水樹) said that that was not the case.

"Businesspeople who have the ability to shift back to Taiwan are not primarily looking for cheaper labor," he said. "In fact, the most important thing in bringing back Taiwanese businesspeople is to bring back talent and cash flow to help expand the markets of our nation."

Former WTCC President Lu Chi-cheng (盧起箴) also voiced concern over the unified minimum wage system for domestic and foreign workers, stating that it stagnates the advancement of Taiwan's industries.

"This is very illogical as there has been a shortage of laborers among all industries," he said.

100 Domestic Job Opportunities

The Cabinet predicted that the return of Taiwanese businesses would help the growth of the economy, whether in profits or jobs.

According to a report, which outlines a plan to lure back investment, returning companies which want to receive government sweeteners need to create 100 new jobs for domestic workers within a year.

The government also hopes that through the guidance of these returning businesspeople, professional skills and talents will be brought back to reform the industrial structure of Taiwan and pave the way for the emergence of new markets.

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