Most companies optimistic about Taiwan’s economy: AmCham survey

Over half of the American companies in Taiwan said they are optimistic about Taiwan's economic outlook this year and over the next three years, a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei has found. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Over half of the American companies in Taiwan said they are optimistic about Taiwan’s economic outlook this year and over the next three years, a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei has found.

In AmCham’s 2018 Business Climate Survey, which received responses from 198 AmCham Taipei member companies between Jan. 10 and Feb. 23, 55 percent of respondents said they were confident about Taiwan’s economic growth this year, and 50 percent were confident about the three-year outlook.

Some 81 percent of respondents were optimistic about their company’s revenue growth this year, and 79 percent were optimistic about the three-year outlook.

Nearly 40 percent said they intended to hire more employees over the coming year, according to the survey’s results released Wednesday.

The survey also found that a majority of respondents saw the government’s “5 plus 2 innovative industries” program and “forward-looking infrastructure development” plan as likely to benefit Taiwan’s economic development.

Close to half viewed the initiatives as likely to impact their company’s decisions on future business expansion in Taiwan, indicating that the focus of Taiwan’s government is aligned with what member companies see as important, AmCham Taipei Chairman Albert Chang (章錦華) said, calling it “a good thing.”

Meanwhile, when asked what constituted the main opportunity for their company’s growth this year, the most common answer (38 percent) was “product/service innovation,” according to the survey.

“AmCham believes that Taiwan’s economy needs to shift from the traditional manufacturing-based economy much more to a knowledge-based, service-based, innovation-based economy,” Chang said at a press conference in Taipei held to present the survey’s results.

The survey also listed three key areas of concern for AmCham members — labor policies, power supply sufficiency, and the regulatory framework.

Nearly half of respondents said labor law amendments passed in 2016 were not flexible enough; 84 percent were concerned about future power supply sufficiency; and 58 percent were dissatisfied with policymakers’ attention to the needs of businesses.

Close to 90 percent of respondents supported further revisions to labor laws to exempt professional and managerial talent from the “rigid” regulations regarding working hours, overtime pay and other working conditions.

The survey did not have time to ask respondents about the most recent labor law amendments passed in late 2017, but Chang said professional and managerial talent were still not exempted from the “rigid” regulations in the most recent revisions and said the issue still needed to be addressed.

On the issue of energy, over two-thirds of companies are very concerned about the ability of Taiwan to achieve its goal of becoming a nuclear-free nation by 2025, Chang said.

“A fraction of a second of power down would cost millions of dollars for companies here,” he said. “So they’d like to see some roadmap that gets us to a sustainable future power supply.”

AmCham member companies would also like to see closer collaboration between Taiwan’s government and the private sector on creating regulations that match global best practice standards, Chang said.

He said AmCham is currently working with the government to establish an “industry council” that will seek to ease regulations and align the interests of AmCham companies with the government’s “5 plus 2 innovative industries” initiative.

Chang said more details about the council will be announced at a later date, but the focus will be on the Internet of Things (IoT), smart machinery, biomedicine and green energy sectors, four of the five main industries featured in the “5 plus 2” initiative. The other is national defense.

“We think this is a win-win. We want to see 10 more big international companies make Taiwan their base for Asia,” he said.

Founded in 1951, AmCham Taipei has around 1,000 members from over 500 companies and 24 committees that advocate various industry interests.

(By Christie Chen)