United Daily News: In support of 'merchants with no country'

2017/08/02 20:24:04 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
United Daily News: In support of 'merchants with no country'

It is better "merchants have no country" than "a country has no merchants."

Following an announcement by Hon Hai Precision Industry Chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) that the company plans to invest US$10 billion in the United States, there has been much debate in Taiwan and rumblings about "unpatriotic businessmen," with many criticizing Gou for not investing in Taiwan.

Asked about such criticism, the Taiwanese business tycoon said "the market is my country." "Politics must serve economics." He also reminded his critics, "Do not forget where I pay my taxes."

Hon Hai, known as Foxconn outside Taiwan, was the second largest payer of business income tax in the country in 2017, after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). National Taxation Bureau statistics indicate the two enterprises paid 16 percent of total business taxes this year.

There is a win-win business opportunity for Gou in the U.S., with the state of Wisconsin pledging US$3 billion-worth of tax breaks if the project creates 3,000-10,000 jobs for local residents and an average annual wage of at least US$54,000 for those hired in the state.

In contrast, Gou has appeared far more reluctant to invest in Taiwan. Moreover, that reticence has nothing to do with his personal feelings but rather because the business environment in Taiwan is not investor friendly.

Insufficient water, electricity, workers, land and professionals, as well as the inefficiency of government administration and environment assessments, discourage local and foreign investors from injecting capital into the country.

One example is that Gou donated NT$20 billion to National Taiwan University Hospital to build a cancer center, but it took 10 years before the center was finished.

Gou once complained of administration inefficiency, saying that despite preferring to invest in Taiwan he would avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary.

Over the past few years Taiwan has witnessed an increasing tide of resentment directed at the rich and businesspeople, and although this sentiment has been largely caused by the increasing gap between rich and poor, it has also been opportunistically fanned by politicians.

In an era of globalization, it is ignorant and ridiculous to question Gou's patriotism by claiming "merchants have no country."

Should not Taiwanese people be proud when the U.S. president, vice president and congressional leaders roll out the red carpet for the head of an enterprise from Tucheng, New Taipei pledging to set up a factory in their country?

Have the politicians who scold businesspeople for their lack of patriotism ever asked themselves how much such entrepreneurs pay in tax and how many jobs they have created nationwide?

At this moment in time what should be more concerning for Taiwan is not whether "merchants have no country," but rather what kind of future "a country with no merchant at all" can offer its people. (Editorial abstract, Aug. 2, 2017)

(By Elizabeth Hsu)

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