Thu, Mar 21, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Cabinet passes draft of elderly pension reform

JURISDICTION:With the passage of amendments to the Elders' Welfare Law, the Cabinet hopes to circumvent an attempt by the legislature to set the eligibility requirements

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved draft amendments to the Elders' Welfare Law (老人福利法) hoping to avoid legislative tampering with its plans for senior citizen pensions.

The legislature asserts that access to funds for the program requires a new law, but the Cabinet disagrees.

The amendments will be sent to the legislature for further review and approval within a week.

Legislative caucuses across party lines have also agreed to review all the proposals presented and to reach a consensus within a month.

Previously, the PFP legislative caucus filed a legislative proposal to enact a new law governing the issuance of pensions, with criteria for beneficiaries different to that of the Cabinet's plan. The proposal easily won the support of the KMT caucus.

The Cabinet proposed that the program apply to elderly who are citizens of the ROC and who have been staying in Taiwan for at least 183 consecutive days over the past three years.

During the previous legislative session, the legislature approved NT$16 billion for this year's budget for a monthly NT$3,000 pension for citizens who are over 65 and not covered under existing welfare programs.

However, the legislature's resolution requires that the NT$16 billion be held back until a law authorizing the pension program is created.

Addressing reporters after the weekly closed-door Cabinet affairs meeting yesterday morning, Cabinet Spokesman Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢) said that it is important to take care of senior citizens, who account for 8.85 percent, or 1.98 million, of the nation's population.

"The elderly pension fund is not about how much money we issue to the elderly but about how much we care about them," Chuang quoted Premier Yu Shyi-kun as saying.

"We're not granting them a favor but reciprocating what they have done for us."

The Cabinet proposed to amend Article 16 of the Elders' Welfare Law to empower the Ministry of Interior to oversee the elderly pension fund.

The amendments also proposed changing Article 34 so that the elderly would be eligible for funds with the retroactive issuance date of Jan. 1 this year.

Although the pension program, which was one of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) election promises, may take care of senior citizens' basic financial needs, Chuang said, the government's ultimate goal is to implement a national pension program.

"It should be a comprehensive network not only providing sound medical and social benefits to the elderly, but also encouraging them to be part of the society by continuing to contribute their expertise," Chuang said.

In addition, the Cabinet is studying the possibility of offering such incentives as a tax reduction or low-interest loans to the private sector and encouraging the private sector to set up facilities to take care of senior citizens.

The Cabinet had originally planned to approve the draft amendments last Wednesday during its weekly Cabinet meeting.

However, the plan was put on hold due to opposition voiced by some Cabinet members, including Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) and minister without portfolio Chiou I-jen (邱義仁).

Both of them insisted that the elderly pension program could be launched without enacting or amending any laws, because the Cabinet is empowered to implement the budget as long as it has been passed by the legislature.

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