Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Stunned Nation Wakes Up in Alternate Universe

Is everyone wearing a goatee? Did the South win the Civil War? Is the Republic of New Virginia at hand? Have ginger-addicted aliens invaded the earth? *Stunned*
Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC, 台塑) and Nan Ya Plastics Corp (南亞塑膠) yesterday said an order from the Yunlin County Government last week to close six petrochemical plants in the county after a series of fires would lead to heavy financial losses.

Nan Ya said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange that closing five of its plants would generate losses of NT$8.4 million (US$291,400) per day, while FPC said it would suffer losses of NT$26 million per day.

The remarks came after FPC yesterday sent representatives to the county government, after it ordered the shutdown from June 1 over safety concerns.

FPC called on the county government to postpone the shutdown, saying not all of the plants had safety issues.

The firms sought a compromise or leniency with the county government, saying that the suspension of so many plants at the same time could deal a heavy blow to the petrochemical sector.

However, the county government said that postponing the shutdown was not possible because public safety was more important than economic development.
The Yunlin county executive is Su Chih-fen, a DPPer who was pursued in one of the nasty "corruption" cases aimed at DPP politicians that flowered after Ma Ying-jeou assumed the presidency.

Major shock. The Ma government's decision to terminate the Kuokuang petrochemical monster in the Dachen wetlands, just north of the complex at Mailiao that the decisions this week were aimed at, seemed to have ended the possibility that the petrochemical industry would become an election issue. But now a local government run by a DPP politician appears to have raised the issue again.

It will be interesting to whether and how the central government decides to intervene in this case. There is a widespread perception that most of the workers at the plant are imported foreign laborers, so fears of the job impact may not be great.

This move may be popular in Yunlin. If you Google the term "Yunlin County Stabilization Fund" you will reach this Yunlin County website with a series of complaints:
Formosa Plastic earns trillions of NT dollars of gross sale and contribute about NT$ 45 billion of tax to the Central Government every year, but its promises it has made in the beginning, nurse school, hospital, senior citizen village, new city project, bounced or halted one after another. Its non-stop industrial accidents over the past ten years since its operation only strengthens the County Government’s determination to demand Formosa Plastic Group must live up to the promises it has made long ago.

According to the County Government, the environment evaluation of 1999 for the 6-NCP mentioned about the impact on fishery, and a fishery stabilization fund was planned to help the fishermen. However, the dominating agency at the Central Government did not go any further. When an adjustment of consumer price index was added to the equation in 2000, a Yunlin County fishery stabilization fund was planned: NT$ 1,233,513,329 exactly. But nothing had ever happened. It went only as far as a plan for a fishery development fund in the conclusion of the 25th meeting of the 6-NCP environment impact evaluation board in 2006.
It may be that the financially strapped Yunlin County government is sick of subsidizing the Mailiao Complex and watching the taxes disappear into the central government maw while the companies contribute nothing to the local economy, and is taking action.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

1 comment:

Okami said...

OMFG, that's a pretty weird thing, felt cold today so maybe hell did really freeze over or this might just be Taiwanese for "let the bidding begin." I could easily see the locals getting disillusioned about a petrochemical plant that pollutes yet hires few locals and gives nothing to the local community.

I'm wondering what the foreign laborer to Taiwanese laborer ratio is and exactly how many Taiwanese are employed at the plant. Might need to swing down there Sunday/Monday and check out what the foreign shop count is. If it looks like little Manila, Jakarta or Bangkok, you can guess what's up. It'll also give me a chance to get a better look at the hydroponic romaine farm on the way there.

Thanks for the Japanese granary post, definitely going on my to do list.