Pension reform is receiving widespread public support, but the division between professional groups created by repeated controversy has split public opinion. Perhaps these are just reform pains, but the government probably did not expect things to spin out of control in this manner.
If the government had begun by dealing with the biggest vested interests and set a minimum pension which would gradually expand to include workers, public servants and public-school teachers, many negative reactions could probably have been avoided.
Similarly, the abolishment of the Examination Yuan, the Control Yuan, the Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council and the Fujian Province Government has been a long-standing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) demand, and for just as long, the party has attacked the KMT over this issue.
Despite this, the DPP has accepted all these institutions.
The government says it is appointing members to the Examination and Control branches in order to abolish them and that the reason it is not abolishing the Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council and the Fujian Province Government is because amending the Constitution is difficult.
It also says the institutions cannot be abolished because it wants to maintain the cross-strait “status quo.”
It sounds as if the intended recipient of these statements is the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and that the government is taking Taiwanese for fools.
Some have said that the nomination of Control Yuan members is intended to counterbalance opposition forces appointed by former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but it is not long ago that the Control Yuan president and a legislator were severely criticized by the media over suspicion that they were lobbying on behalf of relatives.
Do they think we are blind?
Now that the DPP is in power, why does the government lack confidence and idealism, instead only trying to weaken the Control and Examination branches? If vacancies are not filled, would that not also effectively abolish the institutions? For two-and-a-half years there were no Control Yuan members, but did the Republic of China collapse? As a consensus is slowly forming among legislators from all parties as well as the public, a confident government should not appoint new members.
Examination Yuan members might be an obstacle to pension reform, why not use the force of public opinion and take this opportunity to weaken the institution? Current members’ terms more or less coincide with the president’s, so while it might be difficult to amend the Constitution, weakening could be achieved through personnel administration and budgets.
The argument that new members are being appointed to abolish the institutions is not persuasive. It angers supporters and shows the opposition the ruling party’s true colors. This is particularly true as implementation of pension reform approaches, unless rules are implemented to stop newly appointed members from receiving drivers, monthly salaries and other compensation, perhaps excepting a reasonable salary.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been in power for nine months. The Cabinet continues to be immersed in controversy and the DPP has experienced a great setback in farmers’ association elections, which implies that the party might be at risk of losing the farming vote.
If pension reform causes it to also lose support among civil servants and public-school teachers, what future will the DPP have? It rid Taiwan of the incompetence of the Ma administration, so it is worrying to see a lack of virtue and ability in the incumbent government.
Yang Ping-shih is a National Taiwan University professor emeritus.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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