Pursuit of social justice should be a long-term commitment made with continuous efforts to achieve fairness in all aspects of society. However, in light of the government’s latest about-face regarding the year-end pension bonuses for government retirees it appears the talk of reform touted by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is no more than a mere delaying tactic aimed at dampening public outrage.
On Tuesday last week, amid concern for the nation’s fiscal strain and a public outcry over the extra allowances given to retired public-sector employees — a decade-long practice that lacks any legal basis — Premier Sean Chen announced a proposal to slash government-sector pensioners’ year-end bonuses to cover only the disadvantaged, winning him rare praise from critics and the opposition for being responsive to public grievance.
However, the Ma government’s attempt to ensure fairness and social justice turned out to be short-lived. Its change of heart came a week later with the premier on Tuesday making a “clarification,” saying the revised policy on pension distribution is applicable for this year only and that it will be reviewed on an annual basis.
It’s dumbfounding to note how brazenly the Ma administration is playing the public for fools.
Many will remember that when Chen announced the decision last week to limit the recipients of year-end bonuses for government-sector pensioners to the socially disadvantaged and the families of those who are injured or killed in the line of duty, he cited the main reason behind the revised measure as wanting to avoid greater social divisions. The government’s latest U-turn immediately begs the question: How can the government be sure that a distribution of year-end bonuses to retired public-sector employees next year would not create similar problems?
Meanwhile, according to Chen, if the nation’s fiscal situation improves next year, the government may reinstate the pension bonus for all public-sector retirees. If that is the case, it would mean the retirement bonus for retired officials next year would be distributed around the end of 2013 or during January 2014 — conveniently in time for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to maneuver the issue to its electoral gain come 2014’s seven-in-one elections.
This pattern is all too familiar and somewhat disturbing to say the least.
Some may recall how the Ma government, saying it empathized with the public, dropped the planned increase in fuel prices prior to the five special municipality elections in November 2010 and again before the presidential election this January. The government then, after elections were over, turned around and said the market would determine prices.
As recently as Tuesday Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, lectured KMT officials on the importance of reform and reiterated the party’s unwavering stance in pursuing it. Ma reaffirmed KMT Legislator Alex Tsai’s (蔡正元) calls for slashing nine allowances granted to lawmakers, that are also not stipulated in law, and urged the KMT caucus to review the subsidies and give a positive response to the public’s expectation of reforming the subsidy.
A government is supposed to work its hardest to gain as much public confidence as it possibly can. However, it appears the Ma government is heading in the opposite direction, damaging its own credibility with its double standards and possessing a track record of fooling the public time and again.
The next time Ma and his government trumpet reform, they will have only themselves to blame on seeing their talk receive public suspicion in return.
After all, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.