Keeping the Momentum Going

As Taiwan’s authorities rush to handle a growing number of imported COVID-19 cases and local cluster infections, speculation is increasing among individuals and businesses about the possible return of a Level 3 “soft lockdown” and what reviving such restrictions might mean for the island’s economy. Some businesses are beginning to prepare for another potentially long stretch of remote and split-team work arrangements and are reinstating more extensive safety measures that have been put on the backburner in recent months.

Meanwhile, a number of commentators have been arguing for Taiwan to abandon its hopes for maintaining a perpetual zero-COVID scenario. They say Taiwan should quickly reopen to the world and find a way to live with the virus, in spite of the Omicron variant’s extremely transmissible nature and the relative vulnerability of Taiwan’s aging population. Others, including some interviewed for the main stories in this issue, say that in order to begin rehabilitating some of the economy’s worst-hit sectors, a roadmap for a measured, science-based reopening is needed.

Despite the tenuous pandemic situation and the sometimes contentious discussions about how to manage it, business sentiment among AmCham’s large and diverse membership has yet to be impacted, as evidenced by the record high level of confidence displayed in the Chamber’s newly released 2022 Business Climate Survey (BCS). Between 80% and 90% of the 178 respondents to the survey were upbeat about Taiwan’s economic performance, as well as about revenue growth at their own businesses in Taiwan for the coming 1-3 years.

Such a response is striking, given the heightened concerns not only about the pandemic, but also regarding the government’s capacity to meet its energy transition goals within the next few years and to carefully navigate regional geopolitical tensions, including those related to cross-Strait relations. While these issues present some particularly tough challenges for Taiwan, this year’s BCS also showed a deep level of trust in and support for the government’s signature economic policies.

That of course is no reason for Taiwan and its public sector leaders to rest on their laurels. Indeed, despite the highly positive response of AmCham members to the authorities’ handling of COVID-19 over the past year, the overall level of satisfaction with government policy has dropped noticeably since the 2021 BCS was released.

A front-and-center issue for members is the unpredictability and inflexibility of the current process for approving short- and long-term visas for business travelers, something which 81% of BCS respondents said had impacted their operations to at least some extent. In addition, more than 90% favor a gradual reopening of Taiwan’s borders, as long as it meets certain conditions, chiefly a two-dose vaccination rate of 70% or more of the population (a level reached in early January).

With AmCham soon to head into its next White Paper season, many of these concerns can be expected to be raised in the publication’s committee position papers. The Chamber looks forward to using this opportunity to work more closely with its partners in government to help ensure that policy decisions are made with the interests of all relevant stakeholders in mind.