Contrary to the general perception that the year-end pension benefits for government retirees had been permanently revised to cover only the disadvantaged, Premier Sean Chen yesterday said the revision will only be applied this year.
“The policy regarding pension distribution will be reviewed on an annual basis,” Chen said when fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) and several others at a question-and-answer session in the legislature yesterday.
Amid mounting criticism of the pension benefits over concerns about unfairness in the system and the nation’s fiscal strain, Chen announced on Oct. 19 that the coverage of the benefit would be narrowed to two groups of people: retirees whose monthly pre-retirement salary was less than NT$20,000, and families of deceased retirees and retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in wars or on military exercises.
The reduction of the coverage, which currently encompasses about 432,000 retired civil servants, teachers and military personnel, would slash the budget to one-nineteenth of its original size and the number of recipients to about 40,000.
Chen won approval from some opposition lawmakers when he revised the policy, with DPP Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) last week applauding Chen for his “bravery.” Yao took his praise back yesterday.
Saying that he has been consistent since the first time he made the announcement, Chen added that an annual review of the pension system was exactly what was stipulated in the notification which governs the distribution of the year-end bonus for active government employees and year-end pension benefits to retired officials.
Chen said that whether the government reinstates the pension for government retirees will be contingent on the nation’s fiscal situation, which he said is not something he can predict.
When Yao repeatedly asked Chen if he has the “will” to make to reform the system, Chen dodged his questions.
Meanwhile, Chen said the repeated calls from opposition lawmakers for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to donate half of his salary to honor his 2008 campaign pledge that he would do so if he fails to materialize the “6-3-3” goals — GDP growth 6 percent, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent and per capita income of US$30,000 — led him to raise the issue with the president.
Chen said Ma told him that he already donates more than half of his wages to charities each year, adding that Ma said he will report to the public about his donations when the time is right.
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