Premier Lai Ching-te today received representatives from the winners of this year’s 26th National Award of Outstanding Small and Medium Enterprises and the 19th Outstanding Overseas Taiwanese Small and Medium Enterprises Award, saying that the combined vigor of Taiwan’s 1.4 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is the backbone of the nation’s economic development miracle.

The winning enterprises all share a common set of strengths: outstanding operations and excellent records of achievement, harmonious relations among workers and management and a shared sense of common welfare, and innovative approaches to business and operations. Premier Lai expressed hope that the spirit and success of these award-winning businesses can stand as a source of learning and encouragement for other SMEs in the pursuit of ever more robust growth.

Seeing the challenges facing economic development in Taiwan following her inauguration, President Tsai Ing-wen chose to tackle the issue on three fronts, said the premier. First, on the industrial front, the president pledged support for ongoing improvements in techniques and technology among the nation’s businesses, and put forward the “five plus two” innovative industries plan to spur the next generation of industrial development. Second, with respect to expanding government spending, the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program was proposed as a conduit for increased public spending aimed at encouraging greater investment by the private sector.

Third, on the trade policy front, the government is promoting the New Southbound Policy. Taiwan’s economy has continued to grow for the past 20 years thanks in part to westward business expansion into mainland China. However, as costs associated with land, labor, environmental protection and capital acquisition in mainland China have continued to rise, the government introduced the New Southbound Policy to assist in the continued development of Taiwan’s business community.

Acknowledging the universal expectation that the government pursue economic growth as a primary duty, Premier Lai said that the Executive Yuan is actively promoting six concrete policies to boost Taiwan’s economy. The first is a 3 percent pay raise for public employees. Second, the government is knocking down barriers to investment in Taiwan. The third is reform of the nation’s tax system, while the fourth is active pursuit of deregulation. The fifth and sixth policies are the implementation of President Tsai’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program and the “five plus two” innovative industries plan.

Finally, the Ministry of Labor has already posted draft amendments to the Labor Standards Act that would change the current requirement of one mandatory day off per week together with one flexible day off, and is now accepting public comments for one week. The Executive Yuan will then make a final decision, and expects to send the revisions to the Legislative Yuan for review before the middle of November. Premier Lai said that the amended act upholds the vision of President Tsai, protecting the safety and interests of workers while at the same time providing flexibility for companies and their employees.