Thu, Sep 29, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Council mulls excluding rich farmers

Staff Writer, with CNA

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) said yesterday that it has not been decided how to exclude the rich from a much--deliberated proposal to raise welfare pensions for senior farmers.

Chen said at a question-and-answer session at the legislature that the council is still considering whether to implement the exclusion based on income or real--estate value.

The proposal by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has proceeded to a second reading, is for an additional NT$1,000 (US$33) on top of the current pension of NT$6,000 a month for each farmer. The Executive Yuan’s version of the bill was reported to exclude rich farmers.

Legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties questioned Chen on the proposal.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) said he was opposed to the exclusion, arguing that the rich already pay income and luxury taxes.

Civil service pay raises did not consider the government’s finances, so why should it be different when it comes to farmers’ pensions, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) asked.

“The national pension and veterans’ pensions, for example, both exclude the rich. [To exclude] based on income or real-estate value is still under consideration,” Chen said in response to the question.

He also cited a poll that showed 47 percent of farmers were in favor of an exclusion, compared with 33 percent against.

Chen said last week that a decision is expected within a month.

Three KMT lawmakers proposed in the session to lift senior farmers’ pensions from NT$6,000 to NT$8,000 a month. The proposal was later passed.

Former Department of Health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) accused both the KMT and the DPP of proposing the pension increase to attract votes in January’s elections.

“Where will the money come from? How can political parties only give promises, but not give money and increase the public debt?” he asked in an article he penned to Chinese-language media.

Yaung said the DPP, which has made a campaign ad on the issue, should explain how it would conjure up the NT$8.2 billion extra cost of the subsidy.

“Otherwise, it is an irresponsible party that has proposed an irresponsible act,” he said.

He also said the KMT was no better because it dared not tell the public the truth behind this election promise.

Lin Wan-yi (林萬億), a social work professor at National Taiwan University and a former DPP minister without portfolio, said that Taiwan’s agricultural problems, which include illegal seizures of farmland, imbalance of production and sales, and aging farmers, could not be solved by raising pensions.

He argued that senior farmers should be taken care of financially by a national pension for the elderly, which would be a more sustainable social welfare system.

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