Honduras offers land for hi-tech investment


Honduran President Jose Manuel Zela Rosales invited two Taiwanese high technology companies Wednesday to build manufacturing plants in Honduras, saying that the two companies would be given plots of land free of charge on which to build.

Zela invited Taiwan-based High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) — a maker of mobile phones with touch panels — and Elitegroup — a manufacturer of PCs and computer peripherals — to relocate part of their manufacturing operations to the Central American country.

According to Zela, visiting President Chen Shui-bian challenged him the night before, saying if he could find two pieces of land for use by two Taiwanese companies, Chen would in turn persuade two companies to invest in Honduras. Zela said he told Chen he had found two pieces of land and that he hoped HTC and Elitegroup would respond to his invitation by starting to think about investing in Honduras.

Zela made the remarks Wednesday after he joined Chen at a middle school where they witnessed the signing of a memorandum under which Taiwan will provide a US$5 million loan in support of a computerization project to be implemented in middle schools and elementary schools across Honduras.

Under the project, 3,000 computer centers will be built in Honduran schools over three years. Over 1 million students are expected to benefit from the project.

Welcoming Zela’s offer, Chen Chi-mai, a deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office traveling with President Chen on the three-nation Central American trip, said that if the two Taiwanese companies agree, the administration will also offer incentives in accordance with a project designed to encourage Taiwanese investment in diplomatic allies in Latin America.

Chen Chi-mai noted that as two-way trade between China and Honduras has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years, Honduras and other Taiwanese allies in the region are hoping that more Taiwanese companies will increase their investments in Honduras and bring in more funds and technology to not only rev up bilateral trade, but also counter pressure from China.

He added that the increasing presence of Chinese influence in Guatemala — another of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Central America — particularly in Guatemalan power plants, is now setting off alarm bells for Taiwan when it comes to the “diplomatic tug of war.” President Chen and his entourage arrived in the Honduran capital Tuesday for a three-day state visit. He is scheduled to head for El Salvador today for another three-day visit before traveling to Nicaragua Aug. 26.

He is set to conclude his Central American trip Aug. 28 and head home via Alaska, arriving in Taipei Aug. 29.