Retired civil servants’ year-end bonuses, which cost taxpayers more than NT$20 billion (US$684.7 million) annually without legislative oversight or an executive order, and which were not revealed to the public until recently, are obviously unfair to ordinary citizens. More than that, the issue poses concerns and potential threats to society. While it does not sound correct that retired civil servants receive a year-end bonus while many other full-time workers do not, the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration has insisted that the benefits be retained because they have been a “customary practice” for many years.
Meanwhile, more than 9 million workers recently found out that the Labor Pension Fund is headed for bankruptcy in 2027 and the administrative branch, which violated a legislative resolution in 2008 demanding that the government allocate budgets for hidden losses incurred through poor investments, has also rejected a Council of Labor Affairs request for a bill to legislate for a budget allocation.
Subsequently, the government allocated budgets to the pension funds of military personnel, civil servants and farmers, all of which are facing similar financial threats as the Labor Pension Fund.
These cases are not the whole story, but merely form part of a series of policies that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has implemented since taking office in 2008, claiming they are “necessary reforms” and “the right things to do.”
Also included are the supplementary premium mechanism of the second-generation National Health Insurance program, which charges a premium on income of more than NT$5,000 from part-time work or stock dividends, but which is capped at NT$200,000 to protect the rich, and the subsidy of NT$2.41 million per household for reconstruction projects in military dependents’ villages, at a time when young people are struggling to make ends meet and a tiny apartment in Taipei commands a seven-figure price.
There was also the reduction in inheritance tax and business tax in 2009, which aimed to attract foreign investment and entice China-based Taiwanese businesses to return to Taiwan, as well as the fuel and electricity price increases this year that sparked a rise in retail prices and further burdened householders.
This chronicle of Ma’s policies and “reforms” explains why his approval rating has dropped to as low as 13 percent and why both the president and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have been accused of being “pro-corporate” and robbing the poor to help the rich.
Laying the blame on the Ma administration is one thing, but the reasons behind these ill-advised policies are a more serious concern.
These policies have failed to address issues of fairness and social justice, with their different standards and treatments of those with different vocations, incomes and backgrounds. This could cause deep class and social conflict. It has the potential to deal a huge blow to a society which has been polarized due to the different political ideologies of the pan-green and pan-blue camps.
Political commentator Nan Fang Shuo (南方朔) said recently that one of the biggest problems with the Ma administration is that it has always “picked the wrong knowledge” due to its ignorance.
The question we should ask is whether Ma formulated these failed and unpopular policies out of ignorance and carelessness, as it does not seem that way when he makes the same mistakes over and over again.
Ma seems to have acted in a calculated and determined way, knowing that his administration could not be challenged due to the KMT’s majority in the legislature and the passiveness and vulnerability of ordinary Taiwanese.
Taiwanese should worry about Ma’s ignorance, but it is his insistence on carrying out policies that jeopardize social harmony and threaten stability that should worry them most.