Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中) has ruled out the government reducing public servant salaries in the current economic climate, even as he renewed a proposal to reform the civil service by weeding out poorly performing employees.
Kuan made the remarks during an interview on Wednesday in response to a question on whether Taiwan planned to follow in the footsteps of Singapore, which will cut the salaries of its senior civil servants and ministers by as much as 19 percent this year to reflect a decline in the country’s GDP.
Kuan said Singapore’s situation was different from Taiwan’s, in that senior civil servants there are offered very high salaries and a percentage of their annual salary is linked to GDP growth, while Taiwan’s civil servants are not particularly highly paid and their salaries are fixed.
The financial crisis should not affect the salaries of civil servants in Taiwan because government expenditure for personnel is less than 1 percent of GDP, Kuan said.
Most importantly, the government’s fiscal status remains sound, with the country maintaining very high foreign exchange reserves and remaining free from foreign debt, he said.
Kuan said that ensuring a stable livelihood for government employees allowed them to perform their duties without worry, which is fundamental to social stability.
However, while they have this type of job security, government employees must ensure that their performance meets expectations, he said.
“You should be prepared to be weeded out if you do not do your job to the best of your ability,” he cautioned civil servants.
Reaffirming his resolve to reform and modernize the civil service system, Kuan said that within one year the Examination Yuan would come up with a draft amendment to the law governing the civil service performance evaluation system and submit it to the Legislative Yuan for review by next February.
On the four-level scale — from “A” to “D” — used to rate the performance of government employees, more than 99 percent of them are now getting an “A” or a “B,” he said.
“But their reputation among the public is obviously not as good,” he said.
Over the past decade, only around 0.02 percent of government employees have been given an annual “C” rating and fewer than five persons have received a “D,” which indicates that the evaluation system is not serving its true purpose, Kuan said.
He suggested that specific criteria be set out to encourage civil servants to keep upgrading their performance to earn a favorable rating, and to help them realize that the civil service is not an “iron rice bowl.”
Pointing to the example of Japan, which uses a five-level scale to rate the performance of its civil servants, Kuan said around 5 percent of government employees in Japan get a “D” or “E” rating each year, which usually results in retraining, dismissal or transfer to the private sector.
Meanwhile, Kuan said a resolution would be hammered out in the first half of this year to address a situation in which a preferential 18 percent interest rate on deposits by retired civil servants allows them to earn more than they did when they were employed.
While promoting reform, the government will ensure that retirement benefits to entry-level and mid-level personnel are sufficient to support basic living standards, Kuan said.