Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan’s baggage of bought loyalty

By Jerome Keating

The man at the top, Chiang in addition to the presidential palace and monies, had about 30 specially built guesthouses for his tours of the small island of Taiwan. About 380 members of the Legislative Yuan (as of 1950) as well as more than 700 members of the National Assembly and numerous others, had their lifetime “iron rice bowl” positions.

The full extent of all such guaranteed iron rice bowls has yet to be fully documented; the surviving 1947 elected legislators lost their iron rice bowl privileges with the free elections and their “forced” but well-rewarded retirement in 1992. The 1947 National Assembly members faced new elections in 1991 and the assembly, being redundant, was eventually disbanded in 2005.

Thus, when current civil servants and those in the military question why their privileges and benefits, which have been in existence for “more than 40 years,” are suddenly being taken away or reduced, what they are really asking is why they cannot still maintain their share of the days of a one-party state. They have a point; there remain a lot more privileges that have yet to be examined.

For example, how can people like former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and many other government officials make more money in retirement than when they were actually working? Why can some KMT party members count their years of party membership as counting toward the required number of years of service for civil service retirement benefits? Most important of all, why does one party, the KMT, have wealth and profits estimated at at least 700 times more than all other parties combined? These privileges will only be rectified when Taiwan gets a Legislative Yuan not controlled by the KMT.

Premier Sean Chen has bought a little time in trying to head off the growing crisis. For one year, he has restricted the year-end bonuses to the needy (those with an income of under NTS$20,000 a month) and to those military families without support. Ironically, such cases make up only a 10th of all receiving such benefits. Nonetheless, the premier has avoided the real issue, rectifying the baggage of the one-party state days. This is a reality far beyond the retirement benefits of the three select groups. The KMT’s one-party state days may be over, but the baggage, privileges and aftereffects of bought loyalties remain.

Jerome Keating is a commentator based in Taiwan.

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