by Zhang Jianhua, Wang Shan, Liu Ailun
VIENTIANE, July 19 (Xinhua) -- In Savannakhet, central Laos, the first modern pulp mill, invested in by a Chinese enterprise, is soon to be put into operation.
Sun Paper Holdings Laos Co., Ltd., established in May, 2008, is a wholly-owned company of Shandong Sun Paper Group, one of China's top 500 enterprises.
On Nov. 23, 2009, Sun Paper Group signed an investment agreement on "Forest-Pulp-Paper Integration" with the Lao government.
"The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative in Laos has invigorated our company," Chen Wenjun, general manager of Sun Paper Holdings Laos, told Xinhua on Monday.
"Since Jan. 18, 2017, when we started to establish the hardwood pulp production line with an annual production of 300,000 tons, the company has invested a total of 432 million U.S. dollars and started trial production in May."
In an interview with Xinhua on Sunday, Vongxay Xayachack, county secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the governor of Xepon County, spoke highly of the role played by Sun Paper Holdings Laos Co., Ltd., as it has promoted local socio-economic development, with a large number of jobs created.
He said he appreciated Sun Paper's utilization of idle land and for providing a livelihood for local residents and thus lifting more people out of poverty.
"The cooperation between the company and Savannakhet Technical School is also effectively yielding high school graduates and technical professionals to further guide the industrialization of Laos," added Vongxay.
It is estimated that every hectare of land can generate 150 tons of timber, which is to be purchased by Sun Paper Holdings Laos Co., Ltd. at a price of 300,000 kip (or 36 U.S. dollars) per ton. The 45 million kip (nearly 5,356 dollars) per hectare will greatly promote the development of the local economy and improve the livelihoods of those in the region.
"Our company has already employed about 260 Lao employees, and some of them have already taken up leadership positions," Chen stated.
Phengthong Saiyasou, formerly a local Xepon farmer, joined the company in February 2016 and has since become a technician. Over the past three years, he has promoted forestation around the county and more than 20,000 trees have thus been planted thanks to his efforts.
"Before the company was established, the overstocked local eucalypts were thrown away after being cut. Now, thanks to the company's purchase, local villagers could sell them and enjoy solid gains," said Phengthong.
"The company now pays about 10 million U.S. dollars in tax to the Lao government annually during the tax exemption period stipulated in the country's investment promotion policies. Besides 5,000 jobs being created every year, the company also involves 30,000 people in production, transportation or other services concerning timber manufacturing and processing," said Chen.
"After the mill is fully operated, it will greatly increase the local government's fiscal revenue, promote local employment, as well as facilitate other upstream and downstream industries, making a great contribution to the local social and economic development."
Khamphone Kaimaly, a villager living near the premise, told Xinhua on Monday that the relationship between the company and local residents in Xepon has always been harmonious. Sun Paper has built a wide road, not only offering convenience for the travel of the villagers, but also bringing forth more opportunities for them to do business, as many villagers have built hotels, restaurants and car repair shops near the roadside.
The company, notably, also built a school for local children, thus improving local education conditions.
As the largest province in Laos, Savannakhet also boasts the biggest population. During the meeting with the delegation from Sun Paper Group on May 18, Santiphab Phomvihane, the Provincial Party Secretary and Governor, highly appreciated the company's sincerity and passion for investment in Laos.
It only took 16 months from the construction to the trial production of this project, with an annual production of 300,000 tons of pulp. With its incredible pace of development and reliable product quality, this is a miracle, said the governor.
He also expressed his support for and confidence in the future cooperation with the Chinese company, calling for joint efforts to achieve more common developments.