Premier to slash the budget for divisive bonuses

By Chris Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporters

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - Page 1

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday said a provisional plan by the Cabinet would trim the number of retired government employees who qualify to receive a year-end bonus to two categories of people, adding that the revised plan would bring down the budget for the bonuses.

In response to the controversy over the bonuses, Chen said it would only be available to two groups of people — retirees or the family of deceased retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000 and retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in wars or on military exercises.

The proposal was made to uphold the principle of “caring for the disadvantaged” and was based on the government’s fiscal situation, as well as the reaction of the public, he said.

About 10,000 people would qualify for the bonus, which, by rough calculations, would cost the government less than a 10th of the original budget of NT$20.2 billion (US$690 million), Chen said.

Later, the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration said a total of 42,000 people would receive the bonus and that it would cost a 19th of the original budget.

The annual bonus is currently offered to all 432,000 retired civil servants, teachers and military personnel.

The new arrangement would be implemented as soon as February after a notification later this year, Chen told lawmakers at a plenary session of the legislature.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had proposed a draft resolution that called for a review of the year-end bonus system, but had provided few details.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers, which together hold 43 seats, took turns to speak out against the system and the KMT proposal yesterday. None of the 64 KMT lawmakers spoke, with legislator-at-large Lee Kuei-min (李貴敏) speaking on the party’s behalf.

DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said that while the Cabinet deserved recognition for answering its critics by taking “a small step toward reform,” the bonus has not been supported by law since its inception in the 1970s and that it would still lack legal status even after the Cabinet’s revision.

The notification, which is a de facto executive order, had been issued every year except 1964 and it could be seen as legalization, Chen said.

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said she welcomed the revision, but demanded that the bonus distribution be written into law and those retirees who already have cover in other social security programs be excluded.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told reporters yesterday afternoon that the government should immediately stop the distribution of the bonuses.

“The distribution is neither backed by law nor reasonable because people who do not work should not receive a bonus and the bonus is a heavy burden on the government,” Su said, adding that legislation would be required to resolve the controversy.

Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also opposed the distribution, saying that the government should “stop a practice which is unauthorized by law.”