Lawmakers yesterday bickered over proposed amendments to resolve the controversial year-end special bonuses for government retirees, with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) calling the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) version “a slap in the face of Premier Sean Chen (陳冲).”
The KMT tabled its proposed amendments to the Act of Military Service for Officers and Noncommissioned Officers of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍軍官士官服役條例) and Military Personnel Compensation Act (軍人撫卹條例) during a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
They were submitted to counter proposals made by the DPP and the People First Party (PFP) designed to institutionalize the policy proposed by the premier in October to reform the bonus system.
Following a public outcry last year over what was deemed to be an illegal and unfair privilege granted to 445,708 retirees from the military, the government, public schools and state-owned enterprises, Chen proposed narrowing the coverage to two groups of people: retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000, and families of deceased retirees and retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in war, on military exercises, or on duty.
Under the system, each retiree would receive a bonus equivalent to 1.5 months of their pre-retirement salary before the Lunar New Year, similar to year-end bonuses for current civil servants.
After months of bickering, the KMT agreed at a cross-party negotiation meeting on Monday to slash the budget for the year-end special bonus to NT$11.8 billion (US$406.77 million), from NT$20.2 billion, which would cover only the two groups of recipients proposed by Chen.
The reduced budget still has to be approved by the whole legislature.
The DPP and the PFP yesterday moved a step further in a bid to resolve the controversy once and for all by proposing legislation that would provide a legal basis for the bonus payments, stipulating that only the said two groups would receive them.
However, KMT Legislator Chen Cheng-hsiang (陳鎮湘) proposed that the bonus recipients be expanded to three categories of military personnel: those who are eligible for retirement entitlements, those who were injured on duty or the families of those who were killed on duty, and those who have “special circumstances.”
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that the KMT’s proposal was “no different from the pre-reform system” because almost all military retirees would qualify under the first category.
“It was like a slap in Premier Sean Chen’s face,” Kuan said.
Chen Cheng-hsiang rejected the allegation, saying that the KMT proposal was designed to give the Cabinet “flexibility” in determining the scope of recipients of the bonuses according to changes in the nation’s economic and fiscal situation.