Taiwan's premier maps out plan to boost economic growth

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan aims to stimulate consumer spending and spur private investment as part of measures to boost its trade-reliant economy, Premier William Lai said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese new premier William Lai speaks during a cabinet transition ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Lai, speaking in Taiwan’s parliament, or Legislative Yuan, for the first time since he took office this month, also said the government aims to expand international co-operation and is looking to sign bilateral or multilateral trade agreements.

He did not provide details.

China views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province to be retaken with the use of force if necessary, and says other countries and international organizations should not recognize or treat it as a separate country.

“I will personally take charge of Taiwan investment expedition project meetings and to display the government’s confidence in working diligently on the economy,” Lai said, adding that the government also aimed to encourage private participation in public construction.

Lai acknowledged the island has many challenges to overcome, including removing obstacles to investment, but he said the government aimed to push forward construction to allow the economy to expand and Taiwan to become more competitive.

The export-oriented economy has benefited from a global tech boom and from cash inflows from abroad that have boosted its stock market and currency. But sluggish consumer spending and tensions with its key trading partner China are trouble spots for its new premier and cabinet.

Last week, Taiwan’s central bank left its policy rate unchanged, saying inflation was expected to be mild against a backdrop of rising pressure on the trade and economic fronts.

Lai said implementing a controversial infrastructure development plan that was approved in July and is aimed at bolstering domestic demand and rebalancing the island’s economy away from its reliance on exports would also be a priority.

On taxes, the premier said he aimed to reduce them for small and medium-size enterprises as well as start-ups and would also seek to ease the tax burden for middle to low-income workers.

He did not elaborate.

Lai, who took office after a cabinet reshuffle, also said the government would use energy saving, energy storage and energy creation to achieve the island’s non-nuclear and carbon emissions goal.

The government estimates the economy will grow 2.11 percent this year and 2.27 percent in 2018.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Kim Coghill