The Presidential Office and the Cabinet yesterday rejected calls for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and other high-ranking officials to cut their monthly salaries, saying they were worried it risked setting a precedent that could spill over to the private sector, offsetting government efforts to stimulate public spending.
Several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers on Wednesday proposed following Singapore’s lead by pushing for salary cuts for civil servants during the economic downturn.
Singapore’s Public Service Division said on Monday that top government officials, including Singaporean President S.R. Nathan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), administrative officers and political, judicial and statutory appointees would see their salaries drop by between 11 percent and 19 percent next year.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday said he believed such an action would have a negative impact.
Wang acknowledged Singapore’s plans to cut the payrolls of government officials and US president-elect Barack Obama’s call for chief executive officers of financial institutions to forego bonuses.
However, Taiwan’s problem was that the public was unwilling to spend money, thereby, worsening an already bleak economic situation, he said.
To tackle the problem, Wang said, the Executive Yuan has announced several measures aimed at stimulating consumption.
He said the Presidential Office was worried widespread salary cuts might have a negative impact on the private sector and the public as a whole.
“The worst-case scenario is that the efficiency of the government’s economic stimulus plan would be diminished, including consumer vouchers,” he said. “That is what worries us.”
A high-ranking official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the issue smacked of “populism” and that it was the consensus of the government and party that “it was an issue that did not deserve any more discussion.”
The party would pressure legislators to drop the topic, the official said.
The official said that when he got the ball rolling, it would not stop at Ma or political appointees, but would affect the private sector and then wage earners.
“The most important thing at the moment is to stimulate public consumption,” he said. “Political appointees must take the lead to spend money. When everybody spends money, businesses will make money. When businesses make more money, people will spend more money.”
If government officials’ salaries were cut, private companies might follow suit and that would offset the efficacy of the government’s economic stimulus plans, including the consumer vouchers, the official said.
“The government is willing to consider all options if they are conducive to energizing the economy, but if not, we will not risk them,” he said.
At a separate setting yesterday, Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) also rejected the suggestion, saying that the idea ran counter to government efforts to boost spending.
“If this salary cut issue spreads ... and extends from government officials to the private sector, it might compromise [the government’s] well-intentioned plan to stimulate consumption,” she said.
On top of that, the situation in Singapore and Taiwan cannot be mentioned in the same breath because government officials in Singapore have salaries more then 10 times higher than those of their counterparts in Taiwan, Shih said.
Shih said Taiwan didn’t always have to follow the example of other countries.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), on the other hand, yesterday urged high-ranking government officials to consider taking a pay cut to show the government’s determination to get through the economic downturn.
Wang said the heads of five major government branches — the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan — and high-earning officials should consider voluntarily cutting their salaries, even though the move would not have any substantial effect on the nation’s economy. Wang said he was willing to take a pay cut of up to 20 percent, but did not support expanding the cut to all government employees.
“We should respect the current pay scale of public officials and look after all government employees,” he said.
Wang declined to comment when asked if lawmakers should also take a pay cut.
KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) told a press conference yesterday that all legislators should take a pay cut if necessary. KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said she supported the idea even though many legislators had a lot of bills to cover. Chang also urged state-run enterprises and state-run banks “that did not perform well” to consider revising salaries and year-end bonuses.
While urging officials to take a pay cut, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) yesterday urged Ma to make good his campaign promise to forego half of his salary should he fail to fulfil his “6-3-3” campaign pledge. The “6-3-3” economic policy refers to the goal of achieving annual GDP of 6 percent, annual per capita income of US$30,000, and an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent.
Lin also called on Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to step down.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN AND JIMMY CHUANG
INVASION: Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said: ‘A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance’ Japan and the US could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand this, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday. Speaking virtually to a forum organized by Taiwanese think tank the Institute for National Policy Research, Abe said that the Senkaku Islands — known as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan — the Sakishima Islands and Yonaguni Island are only about 100km from Taiwan. An invasion of Taiwan would be a grave danger to Japan, he said. “A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance. People in Beijing, [Chinese] President
‘BADGE OF HONOR’: Lithuanian lawmaker Dovile Sakaliene, who is on China’s travel ban list, said delegation members joked that they would be joining her on it soon A delegation led by the chairman of the Lithuanian Parliamentary Group for Relations with Taiwan yesterday arrived in Taipei to participate in a conference on democracy later this week. The group, led by Matas Maldeikis, a Lithuanian lawmaker and an outspoken critic of China, touched down at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 6:18am yesterday. Maldeikis said at the airport that he expected the trip to enhance understanding between Taiwan and Lithuania after cooperation between the two sides took a big step forward this past year. “This trip will be another step in understanding each other because we are dealing with the same challenges,”
GET A BOOST: After considering the potential for local outbreaks amid an increase in cases abroad, a committee recommended adolescents receive their second shots The level 2 COVID-19 alert is to be extended until Dec. 13, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it advised people in six high-risk groups to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. It also recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 17 who had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine receive a second shot. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the nationwide level 2 alert would remain in place for two more weeks from today. Chen said that during New Year’s events eating and drinking might be allowed in designated areas, while
‘HISTORIC’: The passage of the resolution by both chambers of the French parliament shows their concrete support for Taiwan’s global participation, the foreign ministry said The government yesterday thanked the French National Assembly for adopting a resolution on Monday in support of Taiwan’s international participation, following a similar resolution passed by the French Senate in May. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the resolution’s passage as “historic” and as demonstrating the concrete support of both chambers of the French parliament for Taiwan’s participation in international affairs. Taiwan and France have shared a long-standing partnership characterized by a high level of trust, and based on the shared values of democracy, freedom and human rights, the ministry said. Passed on Monday in a 39-2 vote with three abstentions, the non-legally