President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the nation’s loss-plagued pension funds could not and would not go bankrupt, as he pledged to come up with a pragmatic, feasible reform program in January amid complaints by opposition parties about his approach to resolving the problems.
After meeting with Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中) on the thorny issue, Ma said at a press conference that his administration would tackle the matter in a responsible and cautious manner because many people have a stake in the sustainability of the pension system.
“We’ll address the issue in a transparent and gradual way, with a clear goal, after extensive communications with various social sectors,” Ma said.
He said the major problems with the pension system were insufficient funding and unequal distribution of benefits among different professions and different generations.
An overhaul of the system is necessary and urgent, he said.
“The work may be tough and complex, but we can no longer drag our feet because the flawed system could hurt our fiscal health and affect the well-being of public and private-sector employees, and even society as a whole,” Ma said.
In the meeting between the heads of the three branches of government, decisions were made about the division of responsibilities on pension fund reforms and a timeframe for the overhaul, Ma said.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accused Ma of enacting “pseudo reform” of various pension programs and criticized his refusal to hold a national affairs conference to resolve the issue.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) reiterated his call for a national affairs conference, which Ma previously turned down, saying that Ma’s plan would be difficult, time-consuming and inefficient.
Ma also omitted mentioning the 18 percent preferential interest rate and the year-end bonuses for retired public servants in his meeting, which made his pledge a “pseudo reform,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
The exclusion of the preferential interest rate and the year-end bonuses would likely create more social instability and conflict between different generations, occupations and social groups, Pan said.
The DPP had reiterated its call for a national affairs conference because it would gather together people from all parts of society for comprehensive discussion on the fiscal problems the country is facing so that Taiwanese could comprehensively deal with their own “fiscal cliff,” Pan said.
In Greater Tainan, former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also called on Ma to convene a national affairs conference, adding that Ma’s excuse for refusing to hold one was unacceptable.
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) called a national affairs conference in 1990 because the legislature was not functioning well and the present situation is very similar to that time, Tsai said, because both the administrative and legislative branches of government have failed to meet challenges and solve problems.
“We need to achieve a consensus on reform now more than ever through a collaboration of all forms of social power, as well as mitigating a potential conflict of interest during the reform process by holding a national affairs conference,” Tsai said.