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Ex-health minister's new book warns of 'Taiwan's grand collapse'

2012/04/29 22:55:36

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) Calling Taiwan a "country of schizophrenia," former health minister Yaung Chih-liang warned in his new book that social injustice is creating a vicious circle of social collapse.

"Taiwan's Grand Collapse" is the title of his second book that will be launched Monday, his publisher said Sunday. His first, titled "Fighting for Social Justice -- No Easy Way," was published in 2011.

In the new book, Yaung gave a blunt comment on why social injustice is pushing Taiwan on the verge of disintegration: people are selfish and short-sighted, populist politicians working for self or clan interests dominate the Legislature, a lousy parliament (Legislature) hijacks government policy-making, and government policies often do not result in fairness or justice for the population.

"Taiwan is sick. Society is not friendly toward families, and moms are having bad days. The tax system is so unfair that it is the poor that shoulder the tax burden," he writes.

The rich-poor gap is widening because the government is like a broken auto-vending machine into which the people insert their tax money without ever getting social justice in return, Yaung said.

He decried a "very low" level -- at 13 percent -- of tax share of the gross domestic product in Taiwan, saying the government cannot modernize the country because of the lack of tax revenues.

Yaung said other democratic countries are levying high tax on their people, who trust their governments to do many things for them, so they need not save too much for themselves.

According to Yaung, 70 percent of the NT$300 billion (US$10.1 billion) personal income tax that the government collects each year is contributed by the salaried class that includes doctors, nurses, architects, civil servants, teachers and workers.

In contrast, those who make big money with money or so-called big investors do not have to pay any tax. "This is a tax system that punishes hard work but gives incentives to rich people who make huge capital gains from the market," he said.

An unfair tax system does not just cause the problem of social unfairness and injustice; it also increase the national debt and widen the gap between rich and poor, Yaung said.

He said nowadays, one has to spend 60 percent of one's income to raise a child until his or her graduation from university in Taiwan whereas in more advanced democracies, children are treated as public goods -- they are raised with tax payers' money and treated like the "future masters of the country."

In Taiwan, children are brought up under various circumstances as a Taiwanese saying has it: "Look to heaven as you seek to take care of yourself" -- because no one will look after you, except your fate.

Many parents burn charcoal to commit suicide along with their kids because the adults could not bear the pressure of debts or jobs, Yaung said.

"These parents apparently look at their kids as their personal belongings, because they do not believe that after they die, the government or community will take care of their kids. This is emblematic of an ultra-rightist society," said Yaung.

He recalled a Confucian ideal of building a country in which all members enjoy an equitable share of the joint resources, and he lamented that in present-day Taiwan, every one is pursuing money like a speculative capitalist, without noticing that their society has fallen into the trap of social unfairness and injustice.

It's not too late to keep Taiwan from that "grand collapse" if the government and the private sector work together to show a spirit of "one for all and all for one," he said.

In practical terms, he concluded, that means Taiwan must adopt a tax system that is based on the "ability to pay" and the government can make good use of the tax revenue to benefit all members of society materially and spiritually.

(By Lung Jui-yun and S.C. Chang)