The government unveiled an ambitious NT$882 billion (US$28.8 billion) infrastructure plan last month, but at the same time, reports have surfaced that several big business groups are considering or have already decided to invest overseas.
Four or five such enterprises have been named over the past two months.
Among them, petrochemical conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑集團), whose plan to expand its sixth naphtha cracker has been stalled for years due to environmental assessment problems, is said to be investing in two U.S. states -- Texas and Louisiana.
More worrisome is news that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電), the world's largest contract chip maker, may invest in a plant in the United States for its advanced 3-nanometer process.
TSMC said it is looking into the possibility of building a plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, but is worried that the government's "nuclear free homeland" policy could lead to an uncertain power supply.
This, coupled with possible water shortage, as well as uncertainty over passing environmental impact assessment in time to meet its 2022 start date for the mass production of the advanced chip process, has made the company consider the U.S. option.
If it opts to invest overseas, the impact on Taiwan's industry will be tremendous, not only because it is an investment of NT$500 billion, but also because it will be the country's most advanced technology plant.
Also, E United Group (義聯集團) announced last month that it plans to build a steel factory in the U.S., with first-phase investment of NT$50 billion.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (鴻海), the world's largest contract electronics maker, is planning to invest NT$220 billion in the U.S. to set up a flat panel plant, while Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE, 日月光), the world's largest integrated circuit packaging and testing firm, said that a plan to invest US$200 million in Brazil is under discussion.
The major firms are opting to invest overseas for similar reasons -- four uncertainties in Taiwan that are not favorable to a stable development of their businesses.
The supply of water, electricity and manpower, as well as the passage of environmental impact assessments in Taiwan are all uncertain.
The only thing that is certain is probably only "chaos." In a chaotic social and political milieu, it is a tall order for enterprises to stay in the country and invest in it.
The four uncertainties have not only driven the enterprises away, but also our prosperity. Big businesses are worried, and we are, too. (Editorial abstract April 8, 2017) (Summarized by Lilian Wu)