Pension reform is an issue that transcends the blue-green political divide, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday, calling for compromise and public support for the government’s “moderate and gradual reform plan.”
Tsai made the remarks in her opening speech at the government’s first national affairs conference on pension reform, which took place at the Presidential Office Building from 9am to 7pm against the backdrop of a large-scale demonstration by public-sector workers outside.
Tsai said that the same month four years ago, and at the same place, then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed to the public the imperativeness of pension reform.
“Ma said our pension system involves both self-help and mutual help. He said it is not ‘your pension’ or ‘my pension,’ but rather ‘our pensions’ and ‘the pensions of our children and grandchildren,’ adding that it is a system that ‘must not and will not become insolvent,’” Tsai said.
Tsai said this shows that pension reform is not a political issue, but rather something a national leader, regardless of their political party, must carry out for the sake of the long-term stability of the nation.
Unfortunately, the Ma administration’s attempts at pension reform failed, Tsai said, adding that the nation cannot withstand another failure or delays, as “reform will only become more painful as time progresses.”
Ma in 2009 established a pension reform task force, which held a total of 124 forums nationwide to solicit public opinions before the government rolled out a draft plan spearheaded by then-Examination Yuan president John Kuan (關中) in January 2013.
However, the plan was stalled at the legislature, despite it being dominated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at the time, reportedly due to political concerns about the 2014 nine-in-one elections.
Tsai said her government’s draft reform plan seeks to gradually progress toward its goals, instead of meeting them in one sitting, in a bid to minimize its potential effects on the public.
“I know there are some protesters outside the Presidential Office [Building]. Their grievance is understandable, because their interests might be affected... However, only a sustainable pension system can make sure all of you receive pension payments, including your next generation,” Tsai said.
Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who serves as convener of the Presidential Office’s pension reform committee, said the situation facing the nation’s pension system is so dire that “people will regret it tomorrow if we do not reform it today.”
“Pension reform is a long journey and today’s national affairs conference is only the beginning rather than the end. The conclusions made today are to be referred to the Examination Yuan and the Executive Yuan for consideration in their drafting of a bill, which will then be sent to the legislature for review,” Chen said.
The reform plan aims at keeping the pension systems alive for another 25 to 30 years, said Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), who is deputy convener and executive director of the committee.
Lin said that following the introduction of the plan, the government will discuss in the next stage the feasibility of combining the nation’s various pension funds, such as setting up a one-for-all pension scheme, and establish a supervisory mechanism to re-evaluate pension funds every five to 10 years.
The draft reform plan is expected to delay estimations for bankruptcy of the Labor Insurance Fund by nine years to 2036, the public-school teachers’ pension fund by 12 years to 2043 and the Public Service Pension Fund by 14 years to 2044, the government said.
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