No one objects to reforms aimed at the healthy and substantive development of the country. However, are the proposed reforms recently demanded by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in line with the principle of fairness and justice? This is a question in the minds of many who have been dutifully filing their tax returns ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
Given the nation’s deteriorating finances, with low tax revenues and increasing national debt that as of the end of last month amounted to NT$5.455 trillion (US$181.7 billion) with per capita national debt standing at NT$234,000, one would expect the government to be more cautious about spending taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
However, the Executive Yuan’s latest proposed amendment to the Act Governing the Recompense for the Discharge of Special Political Appointees (政務人員退職撫卹條例) has a number of people wondering whether the so-called reforms of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration translate to lining the pockets of its officials while depriving the working class and the poor.
According to the proposed amendment, the years one serves as a special political appointee can be combined with years of service as a public school teacher when calculating pensions. If passed, this proposal would mean that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who was a professor at a public university for 17 years before joining Ma’s Cabinet, would see a massive increase in his pension, from NT$2.85 million to NT$12 million.
Contrast this with the pensions of private and public-sector workers who have seen their retirement pay shrink as the result of the government’s proposed reforms for various financially stressed pension programs such as the Labor Insurance Fund.
Ma has often lectured his officials on being mindful of public perception. However, just how satisfied does Ma think the public will be with the proposed amendment given that the majority of Taiwanese are seeing their pensions shrink, while appointed officials such as Jiang and other Cabinet members will benefit like bandits from the government’s so-called reformed pension?
Such brazenly shameless fattening of one’s own pocket is downright revolting. It is bad enough that some top KMT officials are able to include their years of party membership toward the required number of years of service for civil service retirement benefits. This latest initiative has left many shaking their heads in disgust.
The nation’s fiscal health is feeble, the government is racking up huge debts, yet the government’s efforts to reform the nation’s under-financed pension programs appear to be motivated by a desire to ensure that senior bureaucrats and officials reap unwarranted benefits, and to hell with everyone else. The drafters of the amendment were not just ignoring the principle of fairness and justice, but appear intent on salting the nation’s wounds.
As the dutiful file their tax statements, it is truly disturbing to see how their money is being eyed by a government which appears only to be interested in lining its leaders’ pockets instead of empathizing with what its people are enduring.
Making every taxpayer’s hard-earned penny count seems to mean something different to Ma and Jiang than it does to the average Taiwanese.