More than a dozen social welfare and medical groups yesterday criticized the government over the vagueness of the wording and omission of key terms in the cross-strait service trade agreement, demanding clear answers to doubts raised over the opening up of the long-term healthcare and medical service sub-sectors to Chinese investment under the pact.
The groups made the remarks at a public hearing held by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus.
Cross-Strait Agreement Watch convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) and DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) panned the government for delaying a public hearing that it had been supposed to hold before signing the agreement.
Lai added that the pact must be subjected to clause-by-clause review by the legislature, as this is what any democratic country would do.
The government was either being incredibly ignorant and negligent of Taiwanese’s welfare, or it was pursuing its own agenda because otherwise there is no need to rush carelessly through negotiations to sign an agreement that has no clear benefits for the people it affects, the groups said, pointing particularly to the clauses on health and social services included in the deal.
Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), secretary-general for the League of Welfare Organizations, said that while the Civil Code clearly stipulates that social welfare institutions are “not-for-profit,” the pact says Taiwan is to allow Chinese service providers to invest in these institutions in “partnership” with Taiwanese service providers.
“Allowing Chinese capital to ‘invest’ and form ‘partnerships’ with local service providers implies the for-profit operations and the distribution of profits at the end of each business year,” Wang said. “Are we saying that the government is relaxing the rules to allow all of the nation’s social welfare institutions to become profit-making enterprises? Or just those with Chinese investment?”
“If an institution is nonprofit, what is the point of Chinese firms investing in them?” Wang asked. “If what they want is to make a donation, we welcome Chinese millionaires like Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) to feel free to do so, but what we are concerned about is that the quality of service for those who do not have a voice not be compromised.”
Chen Su-chun (陳素春), an official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Social and Family Affairs Administration, stressed that the nonprofit character of social welfare institutions would not change under the agreement, but parried the question of whether the government agreed to include a definition of and restrictions on the establishment of social welfare institutions in the pact.
An even bigger problem is that most of the nation’s welfare institutions for senior citizens are for-profit in practice and so those in need of capital will welcome Chinese investment, which will accelerate the commercialization of these services, Foundation for the Welfare of the Elderly secretary-general Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴) said.