Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan’s baggage of bought loyalty

By Jerome Keating

The past is past and cannot be changed; no one denies that. In the same vein, what happened, has happened, it is done and gone; do not cry over it. That is true also. However, such dicta are not the whole picture.

Accepting the fact that the past has happened does not mean that the baggage and unwanted residue of that past must also be accepted. That is totally different and something that can be rectified. Hence Taiwan’s current labor and pension fund discussions. The naive may say that the one-party state of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is a thing of the past, so stop railing against it. They fail to grasp that the railing is not against what was, but rather it is against the unwanted baggage of that past that still remains. Such inequities need not be perpetuated forever.

On the one hand we have the Labor Insurance Fund and Labor Pension Fund, funds that apply to the average worker. According to estimates these funds will have a deficit by 2017 and be bankrupt by 2027. The average worker with a lump sum retirement and no year-end bonus is in danger. On the other hand we have a select group: the military, public school teachers and civil servants who have a different pension plan, one that can include a guaranteed monthly income of approximately 75 percent of their previous earnings, a guaranteed 18 percent annual interest on select deposits and additional annual bonuses.

This group has no fear of bankruptcy for they have a government guarantee that it will pick up any deficit. Is that equality?

What then brought about this apparent disparity? The roots of this special privilege go back to the KMT’s one-party state in Taiwan. They go all the way back to the post-World War II years when Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his government-in-exile officially came to Taiwan as a diaspora on the run in 1949. The KMT laid claim to Taiwan, a claim, that ironically remains in complex limbo since the US repeatedly maintains that its official position on just who Japan was to hand over Taiwan to after the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1952 remains “undecided.”

Regardless of this, when the KMT relocated in 1949, it brought with it from China its national flag, a Constitution, a raft of government departments and officials, and imposed all of them along with its one-party-state on Taiwanese. Incorporated in this imposition is what can be termed the numerous trickle-down “loyalist privileges.” It is the annual bonus element of these particular privileges for the military, civil servants and public school teachers that is now being discussed.

When a government in exile imposes itself as a one-party state on a much larger group of people, that government needs to ensure the loyalty of at least three groups essential to preserving its rule. Those groups are: the military (needed to quell dissent), civil servants (needed to keep government functioning) and teachers (needed to indoctrinate the young in the values of the state). This bought loyalty provides the backdrop against which the contrast in retirement privileges must be seen. Unable to give members of these three groups high salaries, the one-party state government can, in lieu of their lower wages, promise them a set of guaranteed retirement benefits that others would not have.

Of course, these three groups were not the only ones with paid-for privileges. These are all part and parcel of any one-party state’s trickle down system of privileges and perks beginning at the top and working its way down to the lowest-ranking civil servant.

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