Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Pensions mess must be solved

Reassessment of the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment to Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例) was the main topic of discussion at the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) weekly Central Standing Committee yesterday, during which former chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) son, Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文), proposed that the party slash all pensions and benefits for retired presidents and vice presidents.

While Lien Sheng-wen's proposal has been dubbed by the pro-China media as an act of "honor and justice," as it would impact on his father's income, when looking at his proposal in more detail, it turns out to be nothing of the sort.

Retired presidents and vice presidents qualify for a monthly pension of about half their salary, as well as allowances for office space, staff and other expenses. They can choose between the benefits provided by the statute or a special 18 percent preferential rate.

Under the law, a former president and vice president together get an annual pension of NT$52 million (US$1.54 million) with 3 percent annual growth adjusted for inflation.

Before the KMT administration handed power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000, it "tailored" the law to include the vice president.

Lien Chan henceforth has been receiving NT$470,000 a month in retirement benefits, including NT$220,000 generated from the 18 percent rate on his 12 million pension deposit.

His monthly pension exceeds the monthly paycheck of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), at NT$460,000. Even Lien's old boss, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), lags behind him in the earning stakes. Lee chose the benefits and currently receives NT$410,000 monthly.

Let's not forget to mention that Lien is still entitled to government-funded housing, offices and a number of cars, chauffeurs and security guards.

Of course Lien Sheng-wen doesn't mind abolishing the statute because his father, the former vice president, chose the 18 percent preferential rate which generates a more handsome monthly return in his bank account than the statute that he wants abolished provides.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that China Steel Corp (中鋼) chairman Lin Wen-yuan's (林文淵) NT$44 million (US$1.3 million) bonus was "legal, but unreasonable and inappropriate." Shouldn't Ma apply the same standard to Lien?

Lien is currently enjoying another trip to China, his second in less in six months. Lien has conducted himself shamefully by fawning to the enemy, and seems to be a willing participant in China's plans to annex Taiwan.

The benefits enjoyed by Lien would easily make him the envy of former US vice president Al Gore.

Gore enjoys no such preferential treatment. He received a seven-month relocation allowance, he drives his own car and gets stuck in traffic like the rest of us, and as recently as last month he was issued a speeding ticket and had to pay a fine of US$141.

Gore is treated like a normal citizen, while Lien lives the good life. Every year a whopping NT$2.7 million is taken from taxpayers to subsidize life-time preferential treatment for Lien, who is already one of the richest men in Taiwan's political arena.

This unreasonable situation obviously calls for a change. For the sake of everyone in Taiwan, the law is in serious need of amendment.

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