The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said it would appeal to the people to take to the streets if President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, in the face of pressure from some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators and retired public servants, reverses a Cabinet decision to cut year-end bonuses for retired government employees.
“The DPP has taken an unequivocal stance that the year-end bonuses of retired government officials should all be cut. In the meantime, the party will pay close attention to the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan to see if they flinch under the growing pressure,” DPP Secretary-General Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) said.
Lin said if the Ma administration did “chicken out” from the proposed benefit cut, it would most likely galvanize a disastrous social storm and see a full-fledged rebuttal from the party.
Despite being a minority party in the legislature, Lin said the DPP would respond to such a reversal by resorting to public opinion and seeking to counterattack by taking to the streets to let the voice of the people be heard.
Lin made the remarks after Premier Sean Chen said during a question-and-answer session in the legislature on Friday that he was open to ideas and suggestions as the rule for the distribution of the year-end benefits has not yet been drawn up.
In light of the country’s fiscal straits, Chen reiterated that the government would seek to hammer out relevant regulations early next year based on the principle of administering to the disadvantaged and to those who had made sacrifices for the nation.
Chen’s attitude began to soften on the much-scrutinized benefits for retirees from the military, the government and public schools after the Cabinet’s decision drew criticism from retired officials, with some even threatening to seek Ma’s impeachment if the proposed cut is not scrapped.
About one-quarter of KMT lawmakers, led by KMT Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千), are also said to be formulating a motion that the budget allocated to the Lunar New Year benefit not be cut and be enshrined in law.
The budget of NT$20.2 billion (US$697 million) which is earmarked for 445,708 public-sector retirees who opted to receive retirement benefits in monthly installments rather than one lump sum has been put under severe scrutiny in the media and has been criticized by the public as being unfair to non-government retirees.
Amid rising discontent over the controversial benefits, Chen on Oct. 23 announced a plan to slash the number of beneficiaries to only two groups of people — retirees or the family of deceased retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000, and retirees or the families of deceased reirees who were killed, injured or disabled in wars or in military exercises.
Under the proposed cut, only 40,000 people would qualify for the bonuses, which is estimated to cost the government about 80 percent less that the original budget.
Meanwhile, responding to former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) call on Friday for various political parties and people from all sectors of society to hold state-affairs meetings on pension reform, Lin said several DPP legislators have already tendered a similar motion which was passed in a Tuesday legislative meeting
“Although the motion is not legally binding, the government should nevertheless lend some weight to what it proposes, “Lin said.
According to Lin, the DPP has established a task force charged with reviewing retirement benefits for government retirees and other problematic and debt-laden social insurance pension systems, such as the Labor Insurance Fund, to facilitate a resolution on the highly publicized issues.
DPP headquarters is to call a meeting tomorrow with its legislative caucus to deliberate on several hot-button issues, with a discussion on the feasibility of setting up a legislative special committee and holding state-affairs conferences to address the pension matter being given top priority.