The following is a translation of selected sections from the premier's report.
Speaker Su, Deputy Speaker Tsai, members of the Legislature:
On January 14 of this year, after a 13-year remove, I answered the call of fate to once again take up the heavy responsibility of the premiership. As for this second chance to serve the public, I can only say that my heart is filled with my duty to the people and my passion for Taiwan. I want to thank former Premier Lai Ching-te for his intense dedication to governing the nation and expanding reforms over the past year-plus. Now comes the time for the new Cabinet to build upon the solid foundation laid down by Premier Lai by quickly responding to the people's concerns and building a record of accomplishments.
The guiding principle for my team at the Executive Yuan is simplifying government for the convenience of the public. Going forward, the implementation of all policies will begin with the people's perspective in mind. Fewer constraints in place means greater convenience for the people.
From now on the government must act as a team that is grounded in the will of the people and able to get things done, implementing measures to accelerate benefits and convenience for the public, and taking action to solve the problems that concern the public. We want the people to understand that the government stands at their side, and at the very first instance will make sure they know what the government has accomplished on their behalf.
Now I would like to present to this august body my plans for the course of government.
Safety and security
In my first oral policy report to the Legislature as premier 13 years ago, I proclaimed that shame tarnishes a government that cannot provide the people with the safety and security to go about life and work. This has been a mantra of mine ever since I entered public service.
Law and order is at the foundation of the people's peace of mind, and the campaign against illegal drugs is the first step to achieving that law and order. The government must make the fight against narcotics a priority, keep young people away from drugs, and vastly remedy the drug problem in Taiwan.
To complement the new enforcement regimen under the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act and the launch of the anti-drug fund, I'm asking that the responsible agencies take action, work closely together across administrative boundaries and strike hard against narcotics, eliminate them from the streets and trace supplies back to the source. We must encourage the people to take a firm stand and prevent drugs from entering our communities and schools.
As for cases of child abuse, the government will take on the responsibility to fully resource social welfare centers and assign sufficient social workers. We will implement three levels of child protection services, encourage people to report abuse, and take early action to provide encompassing protections. In drafting amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republic of China, we want to strictly punish violence and are seeking to increase penalties in aggravated cases where abuse results in death or serious injury. I respectfully ask that the Legislature move quickly to complete the review of these amendments.
Drunk driving robs innocent lives and leaves countless families heartbroken. To prevent driving under the influence and ensure that our streets are safe, the government will stage a strict crackdown on intoxicated drivers, as well as formulate amendments as soon as possible that put deaths from drunk driving on the same level as premeditated homicide. In addition, we will propose administrative measures to more effectively keep drunk drivers off the road.
African swine fever cannot be treated too lightly. On my very first day in office, I ordered that 100 percent of carry-on baggage coming from affected areas be searched. International travelers who illegally bring pork products into the country are fined. I also required that pig farms using kitchen scraps to feed their animals have high-temperature steaming or boiling equipment inspected and approved by environmental authorities, or switch to using prepared feed. Finally, short, medium and long-term plans are in place for ending the use of kitchen scraps should there be an outbreak of the disease. It's my hope that the public and pork producers can come together and work with the government to protect Taiwan's pork industry.
So that the public can eat with confidence, the government is implementing a five-point food safety policy, as well as promoting the local sourcing of school lunches. Schools in all 22 counties and cities of Taiwan are now taking part in this program. The Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act was amended on January 16, which expands the range of risky chemical substances subject to controls intended to prevent their introduction into the food supply chain.
In the midst of global economic shifts driven by the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, effectively stimulating domestic demand through investment and consumption is key to maintaining economic growth at home.
We are accelerating the promotion of the "five plus two" innovative industries plan and the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program. Government investment will lead to investment by the private sector, and the government will help remove all barriers that may keep companies from investing. We will also restructure the tax system to lighten the burden on the public. Further, through such measures as encouraging domestic tourism, subsidizing the purchase of energy-saving devices by the public, and phasing out and replacing older vehicles, we will stimulate domestic consumption.
The government has put in place an action plan to draw overseas Taiwanese companies back to invest in Taiwan. Guided by the needs of businesses, the plan calls for dedicated single-window service to help arrange land, water, power and workforce, as well as provide assistance with taxation and financing. We are also currently working on legislation to promote foreign capital investment in Taiwan and attract overseas Taiwanese companies to invest in strategic sectors back home, which will drive the upgrade of domestic industry.
The drive to invest in Taiwan has already drawn an enthusiastic response from major domestic firms. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Winbond, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc., and Powerchip Technology Corp. have all channeled funds into the construction of new facilities locally, and created many job opportunities in the process. Taiwan's pool of research and development (R&D) talent has caught the attention of such global giants as Microsoft, Google, IBM and Cisco, all of which have announced or undertaken plans to invest in Taiwan by establishing innovative R&D hubs or data centers. These moves not only demonstrate a positive outlook toward Taiwan's future, but also are indicative of these companies' confidence in and admiration for the nation's democratic rule of law and data security environment.
Last year the value of Taiwan's agricultural exports hit US$5.47 billion, a 20-year high. Agricultural exports to China alone grew by 23 percent, setting a new record at US$1.27 billion. Taiwan also saw farm exports to the New Southbound Policy countries of Singapore and Malaysia grow by about 18 percent each. We will continue to develop new markets in the future and devote full efforts to helping farmers with exports.
To achieve our goal of a nuclear-free homeland, the government is stepping up the promotion of renewable energy. The Ministry of Economic Affairs last year completed site selection and price bidding for offshore wind farm construction, and at the end of this January announced feed-in tariff rates for solar and wind energy projects. With government and industry working together, Taiwan will develop a complete supply chain for renewable energy and attract even more transnational enterprises to invest in the domestic green energy market.
In order to develop the next generation of industry and enable young people to realize their dreams, the government is promoting an action plan to tailor the investment environment to encourage the formation of startup companies. We are also implementing the Digital Nation and Innovative Economic Development Program, using such technologies as artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things to drive the upgrade of industry and development of innovative tech. Our first release of 5G spectrum is expected to be complete by 2020, when Taiwan will join the rest of the world in welcoming the new era of 5G communications.
In addition, the Executive Yuan has proclaimed this year as the "inaugural year of regional revitalization." With the help of the central government, regions throughout Taiwan will put resources to good use to build up local industry, highlight proud local specialties, establish a foundation for growth, and move toward self-sufficiency. These efforts will not only create local jobs, but also draw young people back to smaller towns and communities, where all can enjoy newly revitalized hometowns.
The appreciation of culture is a sign of national development. The Ministry of Culture's budget for 2019 rose by 11 percent from the previous year. Adding in special budget funding from the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program pushes the increase to 23 percent.
As part of efforts to advance cultural equality, the national languages development act went into effect on January 9 of this year. The legislation ensures that all of Taiwan's local languages and dialects can be revived and developed equally.
The Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts officially opened on October 13 last year. Together with Taipei's National Theater and Concert Hall and the National Taichung Theater, Taiwan's three national-level performance centers cover the northern, central and southern areas of the country, helping to bring balanced development of the arts. Current efforts are now focused on completing additional cultural infrastructure, including the Taipei Music Center, Kaohsiung Music Center, and a comics museum in Taichung, to provide fertile soil for the continued expression of Taiwan's unique culture.
Additionally, legislation to establish a cultural content promotion institute took effect this January 9. The goal of the law is to strengthen Taiwan's soft power by forming a national cultural brand and increasing the exposure of national culture both at home and abroad, using the concept of a national team.
We have also invested over NT$4.7 billion (US$152 million) in the regeneration of historic sites over the last two years, providing guidance to 19 county and city governments working on 29 separate projects. In addition, work continues on the Romantic Provincial Highway 3. By matching a renaissance of Hakka culture to industrial restructuring, this project will attract young people back to rural areas.
Bolstering the propagation and development of indigenous languages and cultures remains a focus, with work also covering such areas as advancing industry in indigenous regions and building up native townships, as well as eliminating the digital divide between indigenous residents and the rest of Taiwan.
Helping the disadvantaged
To maintain quality of life for senior citizens, the government will implement rolling reviews of the effectiveness of the long-term care 2.0 program, speed deployment of resources, and increase the safety and quality of services provided by long-term care organizations. We will also provide financial inclusion programs for the elderly, the disadvantaged and residents of remote areas.
To ensure that less fortunate families and students need not go hungry, the Executive Yuan every year budgets NT$2.1 billion (US$68 million) to fund lunches for disadvantaged school children. The Ministry of Health and Welfare coordinates with the private sector to deliver in-kind aid at more than 200 food banks throughout Taiwan.
Beginning in September 2018, students who borrow money to finance their educations can enjoy relaxed repayment terms as a result of government efforts to reduce the burden on young people just starting careers. Major revisions to the Housing Act in 2017 are also helping to solve the issue of housing for young people and the underprivileged, by establishing a stable mechanism for the promotion of social housing.
On January 30 of this year, amendments to the Urban Renewal Act took effect, which together with the Statute for Expediting Reconstruction of Urban Unsafe and Old Buildings and the already legislated National Housing and Urban Regeneration Center, will hasten the effective promotion of urban renewal and expedite the rebirth of Taiwan's cities.
To ensure a baseline standard of life for workers, the government instituted a new minimum wage at the beginning of this year, setting NT$23,100 (US$749) per month and NT$150 (US$4.86) per hour as the new minimums. Also, to lighten the tax burden on salaried employees and families with children, we raised the amounts of four types of income tax deductions.
To help complete an insurance system for agricultural workers to provide for their security, a test implementation of an agricultural workers insurance scheme began in November of last year. The goal is to guarantee appropriate economic compensation to workers and their families in the event of an injury or accident on the job.
As the true meaning of democracy is that the people are sovereign, the Executive Yuan respects the results of last year's national referendum votes on November 24, and will pursue implementation in accordance with the appropriate provisions of the Referendum Act. In response to the passage of the referendum on repealing Article 95, Paragraph 1 from the Electricity Act, on December 11 of last year the Executive Yuan sent draft amendments to Article 95 to this body for review.
On the referendum question of gradually reducing electricity generated by thermal power plants by 1 percent annually, there are no plans in the future for any new construction or expansion of existing coal-fired facilities. As thermal generation falls, green energy will make up for the lost capacity. Taking the three principles of stable supply, lower air pollution and reasonable pricing as guides, the government will seek an ideal mix of energy resources.
As for marriage equality, the Executive Yuan will uphold the constitutional interpretation of the Judicial Yuan's justices and the results of the national referendum to research and write a bill within the time specified by the Referendum Act, which will then be sent to this body for review and debate.
In response to the vote on the referendum opposing the import of food and agricultural products originating from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, the government will give priority to food safety and the health of the public as we undertake a comprehensive risk assessment and dialogue. There is no timetable for controls on foodstuffs from Japan, and the government will continue communicating with the Japanese government in the spirit of the World Trade Organization.
The problem of "fake news" harms social stability and strikes at national security. Taking into account both freedom of speech and an orderly society, the government has a responsibility to investigate and refute fake news immediately, as well as make appropriate amendments to the law. The Executive Yuan has already sent the draft revisions to the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act, the Agricultural Products Market Transaction Act, and other legislation countering fake news to this body for review and debate. In the future we will work with the public, third-party verification organizations, and platform operators to ensure the public good and solidify Taiwan's democratic system.
Regardless of the scare tactics and pressure applied by China, Taiwan has always sought to preserve a stable peace in the Taiwan Strait and the region. However, Taiwan's sovereignty cannot be diminished. Our nation is an indispensable member of the world community. We will integrate the strengths of the government and private sector to actively pursue steadfast diplomacy and strengthen national defenses. We will join in regional economic integration and international organizations with a resolve to defend ourselves and win global support for Taiwan.
A better Taiwan
Last year we saw sudden changes on the international stage, the trade conflict between the U.S. and China, and the threats to the security of the Asia-Pacific. Taiwan, too, has come to a critical point, with transformational changes in industry and demography. Only with solidarity among the ruling and opposition parties, cooperation between the central and local governments, cooperation between the government and the private sector, and cooperation between Taiwan and its partners in the international community, can we calm the troubling waters and advance into a new environment. I will lead my Cabinet as we roll up our sleeves to follow the will of the people, assuage public discontent, get real work done, and charge ahead with the public as one.