Conference seeks saner economic plan

‘PIECEMEAL’:From tax cuts that benefit the rich to policies that create too much dependence on China, the policies of the Ma administration were picked apart

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 3

Participants at the Taiwan Citizen Conference on National Affairs yesterday called on the government to make better use of its resources to help the poor and create substantive jobs rather than fund small public construction projects and create short-term jobs.

“The government was sleeping at the switch when it suddenly faced a rise in unemployment,” former Council for Economic Planning and Development vice chairman Chang Ching-sen (張景森) told the conference.

“Its ‘piecemeal’ economic polices cannot resolve the problem,” he said.

The event was hosted by the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union to encourage discussion on economic matters.

Chang said the government should cut inflated budgets and use the money to help economically disadvantaged people directly.

The government should also use budgets to create jobs in the public sector.

Special emphasis should be put on social programs such as digitizing Chinese-language books, creating care centers for the elderly and young children, building community security networks and creating free tutoring schools for children from poor families, he said.

Liu Chin-hsin (劉進興), a former consultant for the Council of Labor Affairs, said that the government’s economic policies tended to benefit investors rather than workers and created too much dependence on China.

Instead, we need to build a healthy economic environment in Taiwan, he said.

He said that allowing Chinese to work in Taiwan — a possibility explored by the government — would be dangerous at the present time.

Liu called on the government to extend relief funds for unemployment from six months to nine months and improve the social security network before a potential rise in unemployment.

Chien Hsi-chieh, executive director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, criticized the tax reduction measures adopted by the government.

He said the new reductions benefited the rich and increased the tax burden on low and middle-income earners.

Statistics showed that some rich people do not pay income tax, while the exchange and estate taxes have been reduced, Chien said.

The working class pays 75 percent of the nation’s total tax revenue, which shows an imbalance in tax liability between employers and employees, he said.

Also attending the conference was former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who said that she would take a NT$500,000 cut in her annual retirement benefits this year, which amount to NT$3.5 million, so that the government could use the money to help disadvantaged people.

Lu also called on her “former colleagues” to follow her example, saying that it was time for Taiwanese society to develop a social conscience and to strive for greater justice.