Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Pension cut another legislative folly

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Excluding compensation items that are not publicized due to national security interests, former US presidents collect an average compensation -- monthly pension and an office stipend -- of NT$10 million per year.

Taiwan's system, in comparison, has a number of troubling characteristics:

For one, the scale of compensation is overblown. Although compensation offered to retired Taiwanese leaders from now on will range from NT$8 million to NT$11 million, which is on a par with US standards, Taiwan's GDP per capita is much lower than that of the US. The amount of compensation is the result of the pan-blue camp's unwillingness to accept the notion of a drastic cut in Lee's bloated pension.

Second, the pensions expire too quickly, and this is something that I pointed out in consultations. For future "clean" presidents, a retirement pension that expires too quickly will be an embarrassment for the country. I also emphasized that an even less generous expiration date, or even a cancelation of pensions altogether, would not affect Chen and Lee so much, given that they're already extremely wealthy.

But what about future "clean" presidents whose bank accounts are not so fat? Unfortunately, in a political environment rife with anti-Chen sentiment, this point fell on deaf ears.

Third, giving retired presidents inflated pensions could translate into encouraging relatively young, energetic former presidents to use their power and connections to continue politicking, and this would further destabilize the political

situation.

Finally, protection does not equal extravagance; it is a national security issue. Publicizing the number of security personnel assigned to a former president goes directly against the US practice of keeping such information classified and flexibly adjustable depending on temporary needs.

Current social conditions lend themselves to significantly revising the presidential and vice presidential preferential treatment systems. Unfortunately, such revision efforts have been politically hijacked to quench the thirst for revenge against Chen and to curry favor with the public.

Many of the amendment's regulations do not meet US standards, nor do they meet the long-term needs of Taiwan. By protecting the interests of a couple former leaders now and ensuring the punishment of good presidents in the future, this amendment will go down in history as yet another typical legislative folly.

Lin Cho-shui is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.

Translated by Max Hirsch

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