Summary: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je tackles a huge, massive problem. Oh, and Ko is also preparing to run for president. Freddy Lim launches another political grouping. But up first, lots of headlines.
Taiwan’s monitoring indicators signaled steady growth in August after five straight months of sluggish growth.
The composite index of monitoring indicators for August rose five points from a month earlier to 26 to flash a green light after flashing a yellow-blue light, indicating economic sluggishness, from March to July, according to the National Development Council (NDC).
Industrial production in Taiwan got a boost from solid global demand for semiconductors and other high tech devices to hit a new monthly high in August, up more than 4 percent from a year earlier.
The nation’s retail sales rose 8.2 percent year-on-year to NT$334 billion (US$11.39 billion) last month.
The previously hardhit food and beverage sector sales increased 2 percent to NT$73.6 billion.
The Department of Statistics Deputy Director-General described the results as “surprisingly strong.”
Convenience store sales grew 15.6 percent, while e-commerce and mail order sales increased 16.4 percent.
Restaurant sales were up 4.7 percent, but catering and banquet sales dropped by 40 percent.
The August unemployment rate stood at 3.99 percent, down 0.01 percentage points from a month earlier, indicating an improving domestic economy.
Export orders rose on a year-on-year basis for the sixth consecutive month in August on the back of solid global demand for electronic devices, which offset the impact of the pandemic on old economy industries.
The United States ranked as the largest debtor to banks in Taiwan for the 20th consecutive quarter at the end of June with US$91.90 billion, according to the central bank.
China was in second place, with the exposure of Taiwanese banks hitting US$47.77 billion, or roughly half the exposure of the US.
The theme of this year’s LGBT Pride parade in Taipei, the largest in East Asia, will be “Beauty, My Own Way” to celebrate people being true to themselves rather than conforming to society’s gender expectations.
The parade will be held on Oct. 31 and start and end at Taipei City Hall Square.
This year of the coronavirus it will almost certainly be the largest in the world.
Chinese spouses of Taiwanese citizens or foreign nationals legally resident in Taiwan, who have a spousal certificate and are currently in China are now eligible to apply to enter Taiwan.
All passengers flying from Taiwan to China must present negative coronavirus test results beginning Oct. 12
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has suspended COVID-19 testing of all travelers arriving from the Philippines, except for those with symptoms, but said it will require all travelers from the Philippines to be tested before their mandatory 14-day quarantine period ends.
Taxpayers in Taiwan are expected to be allowed to use their smartphones to file taxes in 2021, according to the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
The legislature ground to a halt as KMT legislators occupied the speaker’s podium to prevent Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) from giving his first policy address of the session in protest at DPP policies on US pork and beef imports allowing ractopamine.
They also brought what appeared to be a larger-than-life lifelike model of a pig, as you do.
The New Power Party expressed disappointment as they’d prepared many questions for the premier, while legislator Chen Po-wei of the Taiwan Statebuilding party called the KMT lawmakers “giant babies from China” on social media.
KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) has announced the party had collected 20,170 signatures for a “food safety” referendum aimed at halting the pork import policy.
It also submitted a second petition containing 12,519 signatures for a ballot on holding referendums in conjunction with national or local elections.
These are both first stage signature collections.
A second signature drive is necessary which requires the signatures of 1.5 percent of voters–or 214,514 people–before it goes to referendum.
The government is launching a loan program for self-employed artists, content creators, and other workers in creative fields.
The government has set aside NT$10 billion for the program, which is limited to those aged between 20 and 45.
The National Communications Commission (NCC) has ruled that this month it will hold an administrative hearing on the CtiTV’s license renewal application.
It is the first time that the commission is to hold an administrative hearing before reviewing the license renewal application of a TV news channel.
CtiTV is deep blue and pro-China, at one point dedicating 67% of its news coverage to Han Kuo-yu over one month.
A group of DPP legislators has put forth a proposal for the government to set greenhouse gas emission targets aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
An ad published by Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) on the Chinese language Facebook page for the magazine Scientific American has sparked controversy for allegedly making unproven assertions to defend the Taiwanese government’s lifting of restrictions on U.S. pork imports containing ractopamine.
Scientific American has removed the ad and issued an apology for neglecting scientific principles and media ethics.
Taiwan will hold the Oct. 10 National Day banquet as scheduled but it will be streamlined due to the pandemic.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Taiwanese gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) have been included in Time magazine’s 2020 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The president’s introduction was written by American Republican Senator Ted Cruz, while Chi’s introduction was written by President Tsai.
The Taiwan United Nations Alliance said that it is considering launching a petition for a referendum proposal to have the nation join the UN under the name “Taiwan.”
Good luck guys! You’ll need it.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed that prominent Czech Senator Jiří Drahoš has postponed a planned visit to Taiwan from next month to early 2021 due to the worsening pandemic situation in his country.
At the first EU Investment Forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said EU members should “capitalize on the current circumstances” and sign bilateral investment agreements (BIA) with Taiwan to further trade ties.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je tackles a huge, massive problem
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has spoken out against fare evasion and other contraventions of MRT regulations after a city councillor claimed fare evasion has increased more than 13-fold since 2015.
The scale of this fare evasion is truly staggering in its scale.
In 2019 there were 481 cases of fare evasion, more than 20 percent–or 103 cases–were committed by 43 repeat offenders.
That means that on any given day, there are likely one and one-third fare dodgers!
And what about the ones not caught!?
There might even be as many as two or three per day!
That is shocking for a mass transit system serving a metropolitan area of nine million people.
Now, when I say shocking and truly staggering in scale–I mean shockingly tiny in scale.
In New York something like 20% avoided fares in 2019, costing the system an estimated US$300 million.
It’s doubtful the Taipei system loses more than US$1000 a year.
So get on it, Mayor Ko, clearly saving that massive amount of money is a big priority.
Ko Wen-je is preparing to run for president
After being asked by a Taipei city councilor if he was thinking about running for president in 2024, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of the Taiwan People’s Party said, “I am not thinking, I am directly preparing.”
Ko then said he thought he would have had a better chance of winning the presidency this year as opposed to 2024, but chose not to run because he had to “take the Taipei Music Center, Taipei Performing Arts Center and Taipei Dome into account.”
If he had campaigned for the presidency this year, those projects would be in the toilet, he said.
The constant change in who voters support in Taiwan over the past few years is terrifying, so he will continue to do what needs to be done and go with the flow, Ko added.
Ko has gone from his meteoric rise as a political independent and winning the mayorship of the capital twice, to being the least popular local government head in the country.
Asked about that he said he only came in last place because the public thinks he is not focusing on the city and is being unfairly accused of being soft on China.
On the China issue, on July 24 I did a show on Ko’s relationship to China entitled “Dangerous pandering to the PRC by the Taipei Mayor,” which if you’re interested in the issue check out that show.
In short, Ko either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that often he is dancing to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front tune.
Up to now, in spite of his party essentially copying and pasting the Tsai administration’s stances on China, he himself has been trying to take a stance somewhere between the KMT and the DPP.
The problem with this is that the KMT’s stance is now far out of the mainstream, and the Tsai administration’s stance almost smack dab in the centre of mainstream public opinion.
Until he tackles this issue in a way that the electorate trusts, he’ll be unelectable in 2024.
If he does, voters may give him and his party a second look.
Freddy Lim launches another political grouping
Independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) has formed a “progressive youth alliance” with individuals across party lines to focus on constitutional, local self-government and land reform.
The “alliance” would be a space for discussing national issues, with members including like-minded people he has known since before he entered politics, he said.
He went on to say Taiwan is at a historic juncture and faces a strategic opportunity to establish its national values and positions, build a progressive nation and establish a key role in international society.
The Taipei Times is reporting than an anonymous source told them that among the many issues discussed by the “alliance” have been the “normalization” of the three main branches of government — the executive, legislative and judicial — and the abolition of the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan; a “second wave of democratization”; granting civil rights to 18-year-olds; increasing the number of at-large legislative seats; and creating a special law on nationality, territory, the national flag and anthem, and the nation’s official name.
The highest profile “get” for the alliance is Democratic Progressive Party Legislator (DPP) Lai Pin-yu (賴品妤).
This is the second time Freddy Lim been involved in a cross-party grouping, the first referred to itself as a frontline on Taiwan sovereignty.
While he claims he has no current plans to form a new political party, he isn’t ruling it out going forward.
There are now easily enough defectors from the New Power Party to form a party, and one with a fair number of elected politicians.
Being an independent allows considerable personal freedom, but there are institutional rules that benefit political parties.
Political parties are eligible for subsidies, can form caucuses and nominate party list legislators.
It is also helpful from a marketing perspective.
The catch, as the NPP knows well, that big egos and different agendas can make keeping a new party together can be like herding cats.
The Taiwan Statebuilding Party is working to build a very different internal culture than the NPP to avoid those problems, which I covered in a previous show.
According to their chairman, he isn’t interested in absorbing the NPP defectors.
I’m watching closely for moves to create a new, viable political party.
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Image courtesy of Ko Wen-je’s Facebook page