Government has to start reforms urgently: Tsai

By Tsou Ching-wen and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - Page 3

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday called on the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to usher in both pension and fiscal reforms, which she said could be achieved only through dialogue between representatives from all sectors of society, rather than pro-forma meetings of government officials or political party heads.

Tsai made the remark after Ma held a meeting yesterday with heads of the Executive Yuan, the legislature and the Examination Yuan to discuss problems related to the nation’s ailing pension systems, rather than through a national affairs conference as she and the DPP have proposed.

Reiterating her call for national affairs conferences on pension reform, Tsai said Taiwan is a democratic society that valued public participation, and that such meetings could serve as an ideal platform and mechanism to forge public consensus on resolutions to tackle various pressing social matters.

National affairs conferences are particularly needed at a time when administrative and legislative branches, either because of their limited jurisdictions or representations of different occupational groups, have failed to reach a consensus for the past month on adjustments of contentious year-end bonuses handed out to retired civil servants, Tsai said.

“If they could not even get on the same page on this matter, how much less can they carry out a full-fledged reform on several cash-strapped pension systems,” she said.

Tsai said that each of Taiwan’s current retirement and social insurance programs was closely intertwined with the core interest and financial security of individuals from different social sectors and occupational groups, making the issue critically complex.

“Whether they are public servants or our labor friends, they are part of the foundations of this country,” Tsai said. “We must not let the deficiencies of various pension systems become the source of social injustice and division.”

Tsai said what the country desperately needed was for specialists, academics and representatives from all sectors of society to sit down together to achieve consensuses via communication, help alleviate the financial burden on the shoulders of future generations and to jointly ride out the country’s financial difficulties.

Tsai said that she had proposed national affairs conferences for four reasons: the possible bankruptcy of pension systems, the country’s “fiscal cliff,” the lack of financial protection for the younger generations and a growing public anxiety.

“First, according to the latest calculations by administrative branches, all of the nation’s four major pension funds will go bankrupt within two decades, with the military personnel pension program in danger of running out of funds in 2017, the public school teachers pension fund in 2027, the Public Service Pension Fund in 2028 and the Labor Insurance Fund in 2031,” Tsai said.

Second, with growing public expenditure on retired armed forces personnel, civil servants and teachers placing a tremendous burden on the government, it could fall off a fiscal cliff eventually, Tsai said.

Third, the financial security of younger generations who have paid their premiums for decades and put in a lifetime of hard work could go down the drain should these pension funds go bust in the future, she said.

‘Fourth, the collapse of pension programs could also cost elderly people, who subsist on pensions, their life security, which means that the issue could have a profound impact not on one specific occupational group, but on all people from all sectors,” Tsai said.

Ensuring the sustainability of pension programs is one of the three objectives Tsai hoped to fulfill through a national affairs conference, which she said could be achieved by creating a healthy, balanced financial mechanism to assuage growing public anxiety.