William C. Pao,The China Post
Four city and county heads said yesterday at a forum that they would continue to make their administrative areas more suitable for multinational businesses to set up operation centers. The Epoch Foundation, which organized the last installment of the “Taiwan as an Asia-Pacific Operations Center” conference, invited Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh, Ilan County Chief Liu Shou-sheng and Tainan County Chief Su Huan-chih to speak on the issues they face at a time when Taiwan is trying to attract more multinational businesses. Ma said Taipei City already has an impressive investment environment characterized by a seamless transportation network, low crime rates, superior qualities of life and a high Internet penetration rate. “Of the city residents,” Ma said, “82 percent have PCs, and 69 percent have access to the Internet, of which 42 percent use broadband connections.”
The mayor said making Taipei conducive to the development of information technology will continue to be at the top of his agenda, citing the planning of the Nankang and Neihu science parks as examples of what his administration has already done in this respect. Those areas, Ma said, will serve as R&D centers for international companies and domestic firms that will have their “roots”in Taiwan and operation bases elsewhere. To make IT-related technologies and services better available to residents, the city has offered a free e-mail account to each Taipei resident and will focus on increasing broadband mobile services so that information is accessible “anytime, anywhere and from any device,” said Ma, who is facing reelection in December. Hsieh and Liu spoke from the perspectives of traditional industries, which have a huge presence in their administrative areas. Liu emphasized that his government is planning to make Ilan an agricultural biotech base, by upgrading the county’s aquaculture, dairy industry, organic farming and fertilizer manufacturing. In addition, several institutions of higher learning will be setting up campuses in Ilan, Liu said. A highway linking Taipei and Ilan will be completed over the next few years, cutting commuting time between Nankang and Toucheng to 15 minutes, he added. Hsieh stressed that Kaohsiung has historically been an important base for steel-making, shipbuilding, and production of fasteners and petrochemical products. What his government must do, he said, is to help these sectors upgrade themselves so they can make higher value-added products. “Our industry-upgrading policies have helped a traditional fan manufacturer become a producer of cooler systems for computers … that’s what I’m referring to as an industry upgrading,” Hsieh said. He went on to say that Kaohsiung’s location and its experience in running an offshore transshipment center and major industrial and export processing zones will give the municipality an advantage once direct transportation links with mainland China are opened. The mayor, who is also facing reelection, said he will make the city more attractive to investors by expanding the offshore transshipment center and creating free trade zones, where imports from mainland China and other countries can be processed and exported without a customs clearing process. Tainan’s sience-based industrial park will become a major global production base for 300-millimeter wafers and LCD modules, Su said. He needs a 24-hour international airport in his county, as the 11 p.m. curfew at Kaohsiung’s Hsiaokang airport delays the shipment of products from the industrial park. Although they belong to different political parties, the four chief executives stressed the importance of supra-party administrative cooperation. Ma, the Kuomintang mayor, said Taipei and Chiaohsi could work together to sponsor a “hot springs carnival.” Chiaohsi is a spa in Ilan, a county run by the Democratic Progressive magistrate. Peitou in the northern section of Taipei is noted for its hot springs.