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Stalled Legislature to affect free economic zones

TAIPEI -- As the student-led occupation of the Legislative Yuan heads toward its fourth week, major bills and progress in setting up a health care industry in free economic pilot zones have been ground to a halt.

Such health care services could see revenues rise to NT$38.7 billion (US$1.28 billion) per year by 2016 provided an act governing the zones passes, according to the state-backed Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research.

But the timetable could now be pushed back as the five hearings on the major project have had to be rescheduled amid disruptions to Legislative proceedings since the protesters began their occupation March 18.

The Cabinet was originally pushing for the law on the zones to be passed by the end of the current session in late May, causing resistance from the opposition that led the ruling Kuomintang to agree to five public hearings first.

With the timing of the remaining two public hearings now uncertain, there are new doubts over the original expectations that private investment in the health care sector could rise by NT$21 billion as 13,000 jobs are created.

Last year, more than 230,000 foreign nationals contributed NT$13.6 billion to Taiwanese medical institutions, government data shows. The number of overseas patients treated and the amount of money they bring in would both stand to grow under the free economic pilot zones.

From August to early December of 2013, eight businesses have invested a total of NT$600 million in the eight free economic pilot zones around Taiwan which are located around ports, an airport and an agricultural biotech park.

The economic project seeks to boost innovation in logistics, high-end agriculture, education, financial services and international health care.

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