After academics and other well-intentioned people had pointed out several ways in which the retirement system could be rigged, Kuan became the first government official to demand reforms. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) followed and more than 100 meetings to discuss the issue were arranged, as if a mass movement was being organized.
It was the DPP that started the demands for a reliable national pension system. Examples are the subsidies for the elderly and for old farmers in 1990, attempts to reform the 18 percent preferential interest rate system in 2004 and the passage of the National Pension Act (國民年金法) in 2007.
The DPP did a good job of it, but the KMT kept blocking the proposals. Unexpectedly, after all the attempts at reform seemed to have been quelled, Kuan managed to mobilize the public in renewed, even more intense demands for reform.
The DPP also initiated the 1990s’ democratic reforms of the constitutional system, while the KMT blocked them. Today these reforms are being revived by Kuan, who belongs to the KMT’s deep-blue faction, the biggest beneficiaries of pension reform. This is regrettable and probably the main reason the DPP does not manage to take the lead.
While the party has offered every possible response, the public does not see a future vision. If Ma is lucky enough to encounter other similar reform issues, the DPP may still have little chance of doing well in the 2016 elections, which is now the party’s all-consuming goal.
It now seems that strong public support has helped the government over the most difficult stumbling block to pension reform: the civil servants themselves. We can only hope that the final proposal will not be a further watered-down version of Kuan’s proposal, but one that is closer to the DPP’s proposal.
Regardless of what happens, now there is new hope.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Paul Cooper and Perry Svensson