Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) has set a new political record: He has managed to attract the combined opprobrium of both the pan-blue and pan-green camps with his decision to attend China’s military parade in Beijing on Thursday last week.
The blue camp views Lien as a traitor to the Republic of China (ROC) for pandering to the Chinese Communist Party’s united front — and in doing so has comprehensively overturned the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) and the ROC’s long-held beliefs. Meanwhile, the green camp is concerned that Beijing plans to annex Taiwan, and sees Lien as a traitor to Taiwan for cozying up to the country that they see as Taiwan’s only enemy.
Taxpayers fork out more than NT$370,000 (US$11,269) per month to support Lien. In fact, Lien’s taxpayer-funded pension initially totaled more than NT$400,000 per month, but the figure was reduced following reforms of the pension system.
When Lien stepped down as vice president, he had the option of choosing from two different pension packages, the first being funds provided under the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment for Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例), which would have entitled Lien to NT$180,000 per month in addition to NT$4 million in the first year to pay for secretaries, drivers, an office and various activities, that would drop over four years and then remain at NT$2.5 million per year. It also includes four to eight security guards, that might be reinforced when required. These terms have the same validity period as the duration of the vice presidents’ term, in Lien’s case four years.
The second option was to draw a pension under the now abolished Statute Governing Retirement Pensions for Administrative Officers (政務人員退職酬勞金給與條例). This would have provided a monthly pension of NT$400,000.
Logic dictates that Lien should have chosen one of these two options. However, the KMT legislative caucus drew up an amendment to the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment for Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents — the so-called “Lien Chan clause.”
The clause stated that “where a vice president has, prior to June 13, 2001, applied for retirement under the Statute Governing Retirement Pensions for Administrative Officers, he or she will still be entitled to a pension according to the original rules.” This means that Lien was able to enjoy a vice president’s retirement package of NT$180,000 per month, but that he actually received NT$400,000 per month — until it was reduced to NT$370,000 — as a retired premier. After four years, Lien could no longer draw upon the vice president’s retirement package, but he continued to enjoy this premier’s pension.
There are still many “Little Liens” within Taiwan’s political system. It is acceptable that officials receive different remuneration packages according to the positions of responsibility they hold while in office, but after retirement, they all make the same contribution to the nation and so there should not be too much discrepancy between different officials’ state pensions.
However, when it comes to pension reform, the public bays for blood over the fat pension arrangements afforded to lower-level public servants and yet seem to take little notice of the gold-plated pensions enjoyed by all those “Little Liens.”
If there is to be reform, the public must push politicians to enact an all-encompassing “ceiling clause” so that there is an upper limit to the pensions of all civil servants. The public should not only bully lower-level civil servant retirees, but also focus on the “Little Liens.”
Chen Mao-hsiung is an adjunct professor at National Sun Yat-sen University and chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Taiwanese Security.
Translated by Edward Jones
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