Praising the nation's biggest conglomerate for keeping its roots in Taiwan, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday pledged to help expedite Formosa Plastic Group's NT$124.6 billion fourth-phase expansion project at its sixth naphtha cracker, which is estimated will boost the GDP by 2.3 percent.
"As the SARS outbreak and the magnet effect of the China market have delivered a serious blow to the nation's economy, we're obliged to do everything within our power to help clear the hurdles faced by local industries, especially when their investment capital is as big as this one," Yu said.
He made the pledge yesterday morning while receiving the Formosa Group's vice chairman Wang Yung-tsai (
Wang told Yu that he hoped the Cabinet would approve the company's request to hire 7,200 foreign laborers to work on the expansion project and that it would expedite the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Yu responded by instructing the Environmental Protection Administration to complete the EIA within two to three months of receiving the company's proposal.
Formosa Plastics plans to present the proposal by the end of the month.
Yu also instructed the Council of Labor Affairs to review the conglomerate's request for permission to hire several thousand foreign construction workers as soon as possible.
Formosa Plastics plans to hire 12,000 manual laborers domestically during the project's two-year construction period in addition to the foreign workers.
The company says the new facility will employ more than 1,800 people once it is operational and have an annual revenue of NT$235 billion.
Over 170,000 more job opportunities are projected to be created in related industries nationwide.
Formosa Plastics has invested a total of NT$540 billion in the first-, second- and third-phase expansion projects of the sixth naphtha cracker, located in Mailiao, Yunlin County. Together, the three plants generate annual revenues of NT$610 billion.
During the construction of the previous expansion projects, which began in 1994, over 100,000 job opportunities were created in Yunlin County and 750,000 more in related industries nationwide.
The three plants now employee more than 8,000 people.
It is estimated that once the fourth-phase expansion project becomes operational, Formosa Plastics will produce 2.75 million tones of ethylene a year, making it the world's eighth-largest producer.
A naphtha cracker turns naphtha, made from crude oil, into ethylene and propylene.
Speculation is rife that Formosa Plastics decided to expand its petrochemical operations here because the demand in China has slowed down. The fourth-phase expansion project was scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.
Wang, however, dismissed such speculation.
"The delay in the construction of the fourth-phase expansion project was the result of various factors, none of which are related to the demand in China," he said yesterday, refusing to elaborate.
Ten years ago, the company planned to invest in a petrochemical project at Haichang, Fujian Province. The investment was blocked by the government, which allowed the group to develop the sixth naphtha cracker project as a payoff.
In September 2000, there were reports the company wanted to invest NT$400 billion in China's petrochemical industry. Chairman Wang Yung-ching (