Sun, Dec 18, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: Candidates grilled in final TV debate

ROUND THREE:Ma, Tsai and Soong took questions from civic groups and promised to reform health insurance, phase out nuclear power and mitigate income disparities

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporters

Visitors to Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s national election campaign headquarters in Banciao, New Taipei City, watch the final televised debate between the three presidential candidates yesterday.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Civic representatives yesterday questioned the three presidential candidates in the televised debate about issues ranging from environmental protection, judicial reform, inequitable income distribution and human rights to the welfare of women and children, education and exorbitant housing prices.

Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation deputy director Liu Fu-mei (劉芙媺) asked the candidates to propose solutions to reform the National Health Insurance (NHI) program to make its premium contributions more fair and make it more sustainable.

People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) blamed both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the debt-ridden NHI system because outstanding debts were incurred by Ma during his stint as Taipei mayor and by the DPP-led Kaohsiung City Government, a problem that he said never happened when he served as governor of Taiwan Province.

The health insurance system faces not only financial problems, but also healthcare quality issues, he said, adding that his administration would not just be a bookkeeper for the NHI system, but would carry out reforms under his personal supervision to safeguard the public’s health under the system.

Ma said he would continue to push reforms of the NHI system that began early this year.

Tsai said the Ma government’s revised program treated the symptoms, but not the root cause of the NHI’s problems because it failed to calculate premiums based on total income per household, adding that she would set up a research agency independent of the government to conduct studies of the NHI system regularly to continuously reform the health plan so that it could adapt to changes in society and the needs of the people.

Consumers’ Foundation chairwoman Joann Su (蘇錦霞) asked the candidates to propose policies to tackle commodity price hikes.

Ma said his administration would continue to adopt policies to address the problem, including imposing a fine on increases in the prices of commodities not in line with market rules, reducing import tariffs on materials, creating jobs to boost salaries and expanding subsidies and social programs.

Tsai said the government must act to buffer the effects of the rise in global commodity prices on importers and keep public utility rates in check to prevent improper increases that could lead to an out-of-control inflationary spiral, adding that the government should also demand that businesses lower prices if the hikes are caused by non-market factors, rather than just levying fines.

Soong highlighted the importance of the government taking precautions to tackle the problem by setting up mechanisms to predict possible price hikes, providing resources to medium and low-income families, and adopting measures to address imbalances in supply and demand.

Asked by Taiwan Association for Human Rights deputy president Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) about her views on a national human rights commission and on the much-criticized Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) to protect people’s right to protest, Tsai said she fully supported the idea of such a commission, adding it should be independent of the government to monitor government policies, produce national human rights reports and investigate possible infringements of human rights.

Ma said he was satisfied with the work of the Human Rights Commission under the Presidential Office.

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