President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to reform the pension system amid opposition from both the pan-blue and pan-green camps, and said he expected that cuts to the pensions of civil servants would help improve the nation’s finances.
The Cabinet’s proposal to limit the coverage of year-end pension benefits for government retirees has been met with opposition from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers.
To consolidate party support for pension reform, Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, met with party delegates in Hsinchu County and Taoyuan County yesterday as he stressed the government’s determination to push through pension reform.
“The government will handle the pension reform issues with caution, so that civil servants and laborers under 40 will not worry about not getting pensions … I don’t mind being blamed, as long as we can complete the reform and carry out our promise to the people and the nation,” he said.
Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) proposed the pension reform in October to reduce the number of recipients of a year-end bonus given to more than 445,000 retired military personnel, civil servants, public-school teachers and employees of state-owned enterprises.
Under the proposal, the money should only be given to retirees or the families of deceased retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000 and families of retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in wars or on military exercises.
KMT legislators and party delegates who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the proposal’s impact on the rights of veterans.
The government should not sacrifice the pension plans given to the group just to please opposition groups, they said.
“The government should not fall into the trap set by the opposition camp. It is better to proceed step by step with the reform,” KMT Legislator Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) said.
KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟), on the other hand, said the Cabinet was communicating poorly with the legislative branch on the issue and added that the administrative branch should strengthen efforts to discuss policies with the legislative branch before presenting any reforms.
Ma stressed that the Cabinet’s proposal will not affect the rights of military personnel and the government would continue to defend their dedication to the country.
He called for party unity and full support of the Cabinet’s proposal, urging KMT lawmakers to be cooperative with government policies.
“The Democratic Progressive Party manipulated the issue of pension reform and tried to cause a split in the KMT. It is important for us to work together to survive this difficult time,” he said.