Tensions ran high yesterday at a National Taiwan University academic forum discussing cuts to pensions for teachers and civil servants.
“After hearing what people have said today, if I were [Minister Without Portfolio] Lin Wan-i (林萬億), I would kill myself this afternoon instead of waiting a year to resign,” former DPP legislator Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) said, saying representatives of teachers and civil servants were narrow-minded and unwilling to compromise on pension reform.
He raised his voice and pounded on a table after being interrupted by National Civil Servant Association president Harry Lee (李來希), who shouted that civil servants were fighting for their legal rights.
Lin, a top policy adviser to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), is responsible for moving pension reforms forward.
He said in an interview earlier this month that he would resign if no bill is sent to the Legislative Yuan within a year.
A pension reform committee comprised of representatives from different interest groups has been charged with finding consensus and drafting the legislation.
Lee, who is also to serve on the committee, had earlier interrupted Business Today president Andy Liang (梁永煌) over remarks that failure to reform pensions would lead the nation down the same path as Greece — into bankruptcy.
Lee held the floor for several minutes, despite moderator objections, and accused Liang of making discriminatory remarks about civil servants and publishing misleading statistics.
He also lambasted Shen, calling for substantial cuts to benefits for civil servants as part of broader reforms.
“After hearing Shen’s views, I feel as if I have entered a communist society where everyone has the same benefits regardless of their contribution,” Lee said.
“As not all retired teachers are well off, we look at this issue with compassion,” Taiwan Education Retirees Association president Chen Mu-cheng (陳木城) said. “If Lin is willing to give up his job over this issue, I am willing to give up my life.”
Tsai Chih-chung (蔡致中), cofounder of 393 Citizen, an online group of financial executives that examines policy, said that government pension promises are “false” and “impossible.”
“When we look at the numbers, the Republic of China is quickly heading for bankruptcy and the the main reason is pensions,” Tsai said, adding that “while veterans, teachers and former civil servants emphasize that the government has to keep its word, you have to realize that when the government is headed toward bankruptcy, those are false promises.”
James Hsueh (薛承泰), a National Taiwan University sociology professor who was responsible for coordinating pension reform efforts under former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, has called for guarantees that pensions cover what individuals paid into the system over their lifetime.
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