Ma touts Chen’s ‘wise’ budget proposal

BONE OF CONTENTION::While the Cabinet has promoted a scaled down year-end- bonus program, the DPP has called for it to be scrapped entirely, saying it is not legal

By Mo Yan-chih and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted Premier Sean Chen’s (陳冲) proposal to slash the year-end bonus budget for retired government employees as a wise and quick decision in response to mounting calls for a fairer pension mechanism for civil servants.

“Premier Chen presented the adjustment plan within a week after legislators raised the issue last week. It’s a fast and wise plan that was made to uphold the principle of caring for the disadvantaged and the loyal veterans,” said Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, when presiding over the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting.

Directorate-General of Personnel Administration Minister Frank Huang (黃富源) yesterday presented to the committee a report on the latest adjustment of the year-end bonus plan for retired government employees.

According to the adjustment plan, the year-end bonus would only be available to two groups of people — retirees or the families of deceased retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000 and retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in wars or on military exercises.

About 10,000 people would qualify for the bonus, which, by rough calculations, would cost the government less than 10 percent of the original budget of NT$20.2 billion (US$690 million).

Ma said the proposal should meet the public’s expectations that the government is fixing the economy and he expected the Cabinet to implement the measure soon.

While explaining the adjusted year-end-bonus plan, Huang defended the dedication of retired government employees and said many retired government employees were concerned about the misunderstanding of their life-long dedication to the country.

“Most of the retired government employees have told us that rather than the year-end bonus they got, they care much more about their own dignity as civil servants and how their contribution to the country were questioned over the issue,” he said.

Ma said the government understood that some retired government employees and civil servants would find the proposal offensive or humiliating, as the government at the time of the bonus scheme’s inception had offered it at a time when the average salary and benefits of civil servants were much worse than workers in the private sector.

“The overall environment has changed since then, and it is appropriate to review the plan and make necessary adjustment now. I am fully supportive of the proposal and expect it to be implemented soon,” he said.

As for the savings made because of the adjustment, Huang said the Cabinet would use the budget to promote measures that would boost the economy.

Separately yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that even though the Cabinet had scaled down its year-end bonus program for retired government employees, the party insisted the program should be scrapped altogether because it was not backed by law.

“While the revised program would save a government budget of NT$19 billion, the distribution of the bonus has been illegal, unconstitutional and unreasonable,” DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.

The consensus was reached in the DPP’s Central Executive Committee meeting yesterday afternoon, Lin said.

Lin said the DPP has always supported fairness and social justice and argued that all policy tools to take care of the disadvantaged should be regulated by law.

In light of recent controversies about the year-end bonus and the financial difficulty of various pension programs, including pension programs for labor, civil servants, education workers, farmers and military personnel, which could all face bankruptcy in less than 15 years, Lin said the DPP planned to re-examine those programs and find a solution.

A panel consisting of researchers of the DPP’s think tank and professionals from all levels of the public would be established to conduct a complete review of current pension programs, as well as social insurance programs, and present its recommendation, Lin said, adding the panel would be convened by Lin Wan-i (林萬億), executive director of the DPP’s thinktank.