On the afternoon of April 21, President Ma Ying-jeou met with Nicaraguan Comptroller General Luis Ángel Montenegro and Mrs. Montenegro. During the meeting, the president briefed his visitors on the state of ties between Taiwan and Nicaragua, and called for further enhancement of bilateral exchanges and cooperation.
In remarks, the president noted that Nicaragua has had an audit system for a very long time. Nicaragua established its first independent audit agency—the Tribunal Supremo de Cuentas de la República—in 1900. The agency's name was changed in 1980 to the Contraloría General de la República (Office of the Comptroller General), and in 2000 its name was officially changed to "Consejo Superior de la Contraloría General de la República (Supreme Council of the Office of the Comptroller General)," the highest audit agency in the nation.
President Ma noted that Mr. Montenegro is a long-time veteran of the financial services industry. Previously the vice president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration as well as a specialist in numerous important positions in the finance and banking sector, he was named as one of five comptrollers on Nicaragua's Supreme Council of the Office of the Comptroller General, and has been selected three times as chairman of the Supreme Council since 2007. In view of his deep professionalism and experience, said the president, his visit to Taiwan will do much to spur cooperation and exchanges between the audit agencies of the two nations.
Commenting on exchanges between Taiwan and Nicaragua, the president stated that he has led two delegations to Nicaragua since taking office in 2008, once in July 2009 and again in July 2015. On his most recent visit he met twice for very pleasant talks with President Daniel Ortega, and got a good first-hand feel for the tremendous progress that Nicaragua has made in terms of infrastructure, as well as economic and social development, under President Ortega's leadership.
The president stated that the ROC and the Nicaraguan government in recent years have jointly promoted a number of bilateral cooperation projects focusing on social welfare, including initiatives to eradicate hunger, provide micro-lending, and offer assistance to the needy, and good results have been achieved. In addition, the two sides in 2015 signed an ROC-Nicaragua Technical Cooperation Framework Agreement, under which Taiwan is providing technical assistance to Nicaragua in projects involving rice, bamboo handicrafts, red kidney beans, and cooking plantains. In the process, Nicaragua has taken a big step toward achieving its goal of food self-sufficiency.
Turning to the subject of bilateral economic and trade ties, the president pointed out that since the Free Trade Agreement Between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Nicaragua took effect in 2008, two-way trade has risen sharply from US$52 million in 2007 to US$120 million last year, and Nicaraguan exports to Taiwan have risen by over fourfold, from US$15 million in 2007 to US$88 million last year. These numbers show that the efforts of both sides have yielded considerable success. Commenting on foreign direct investment, the president noted that ROC firms have invested US$133.8 million in Nicaragua to date, including especially large investments in textiles, apparel, and hotels.
The president also mentioned that the good people at the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) are very familiar with Estelí Department [province], where Mr. Montenegro was born. Acting through the Christian Children's Fund of Canada, TFCF has sponsored the education of 3,000 children in Estelí through its annual donations of more than US$800,000. Last year, TFCF raised funds to support the construction of classrooms at Augusto Sandino Calderón Elementary School in Estelí. As of February 2016, three new classrooms had been completed and were in use, thus improving the learning environment for children in that area while bringing the people of Taiwan and Nicaragua closer together. This has been one of the most heart-warming and meaningful aspects of bilateral cooperation.
The president also pointed out that both Taiwan and Nicaragua have had to deal with natural disasters in recent years. After Nicaragua was unfortunately hit by an earthquake two years ago, for example, Taiwan used the "Application of Geographic Information Systems to Improve Environmental Sustainability in Nicaragua" project to provide the Nicaraguan government with real-time satellite imagery of the affected area, thereby reducing casualties. In addition, Taiwan donated US$200,000 to the relief effort, and did everything possible to help the people of Nicaragua recover from the disaster. Then after a big earthquake struck southern Taiwan on this past February 6, causing severe damage, President Ortega and his wife promptly conveyed condolences, which was quite touching.
Looking to the future, President Ma expressed hope that official diplomatic ties between the ROC and Nicaragua will continue to deepen, and that Nicaragua will continue to support the ROC.
Also present at the meeting was Nicaraguan Ambassador to the ROC William Manuel Tapia Aleman.