Thu, Jan 31, 2013 - Page 3 News List

PENSION REFORM: Pan-green camp slams pension reform

DANCING ELEPHANT?The DPP said that Ma’s plan did not address core issues of fairness and said that private-sector workers might ‘storm the legislature’ in response

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Lee Chun-yi, left, and Chen Chi-mai, right, accuse President Ma Ying-jeou at a press conference yesterday of missing the point after Ma announced that he would give up his right to the preferential 18 percent interest rate on state employee pensions.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The pan-green camp yesterday called President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pension reform plan a “pseudo” reform, adding that his announcement that he would give up his right to the 18 percent preferential interest rate given to state employee pensions as “a selfish act to try and fix his reputation.”

Ma has flip-flopped and failed in all his reform plans during his time in office, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said, citing as examples the capital gains tax on securities transactions, the year-end bonuses for retired civil servants and the amendment of media regulation laws.

“It is difficult to teach an elephant how to dance, but it’s even more difficult to expect Ma to implement true reform,” Ker said.

The government’s pension reform proposal has failed to address the core issue of pension system reform — the income replacement rate, in particular that of civil, education and military workers, Ker said.

Ma’s pledge in April last year to send amendment proposals to the Legislative Yuan was a strategy to tame a potential recall that had been tentatively planned for around May 20, the anniversary of his second inauguration, Ker said.

DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said Ma’s proposed pension reform would likely increase the payment gap between retired private-sector workers and civil servants, public school teachers and military personnel.

The government’s plan has sacrificed the interests of private-sector employees and low-level civil servants, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said, adding that civil, education and military state employees’ pensions should be the focus of any reform.

Lin Wan-i (林萬億), the executive director of the DPP’s think tank, said Ma’s plan would likely infuriate non-state workers and incite a fresh wave of public discontent.

“I would not be surprised to see private-sector workers storm the legislature to ask for changes,” Lin said.

The proposal did not say how it would resolve the potential bankruptcy of the Labor Insurance Fund, the difference in pensions between various occupations and the financial vulnerability of future generations, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislative caucus whip Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said.

The “chaotic” plan was hastily prepared to assuage the public’s anger and would be unable to solve the pension system’s issues, she added.

Ma sacrificing the 18 percent preferential interest rate on his pension has nothing to do with reforming the national pension system that people from all occupations care about and are affected by, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said.

By saying that he would give up the special rate on his pension, Ma appeared to be hinting that the preferential rate would not be scrapped in its entirety, Su said.

“Giving up this preferential treatment is not something to brag about, especially since many DPP officials gave theirs up years ago,” former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said.

Separately, Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) called the reform a “nuclear disaster.”

Several labor groups are working to stage a large-scale demonstration against it, he added.

“[The reform plan] is like a nuclear disaster, because it’s something that happens because a few people make a mistake, but affects everyone — we would all be made victims,” Son said.

He said taking a large percentage of a worker’s income to put into their retirement pension fund deprives the worker of quality of life.

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