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Talk of the Day -- Ex-maverick minister supports finance minister

2012/05/27 18:09:07

Outspoken former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang has stood up in defense of besieged Finance Minister Christina Liu, whose proposal to tax the richest 1 percent in the stock market has come under fire from stockbrokers, as well as private investors of all stripes.

Yaung said he could not bear to see a finance minister being denigrated for trying to add some revenue to the national coffers by taxing those who make big money from the stock market.

"Taiwan has become a senseless society" dominated by populist and sentimental people who cannot talk reason, he said, asking: "What's wrong with the idea of taxing single and rich people more than others?"

Yaung's maverick outspokenness against what he calls "unreasonable" phenomena was prominently reported by major Taiwanese newspapers as follows:

China Times:

During a speech at Taipei City's Social Workers Union Saturday, Yaung advised stockbrokers to "show your conscience" by suggesting how best to tax those who have the ability to pay rather than threatening to move their funds abroad if they disagree with the idea of taxing those who have made a fortune from the stock market.

He said that housewives -- who tend to be minor players in the stock market -- have turned against the Finance Ministry for proposing the capital gains tax because they have suffered losses after major players or big investors have refrained from buying into Taiwanese stocks, bringing down share prices.

Salary and wage earners are making small money through hard work, so those who make more than NT$4 million off the stock exchange should pay more than others in taxes, he contended.

"If they don't, Taiwan will become a society with no social justice at all," he said.

Yaung, who has just published a book title "Taiwan's Grand Collapse," quoted from his book to deplore social injustices that he claimed have led to a dilemma in which young people do not want to "marry, give birth, raise kids or live, as they see no prospects in life."

As Taiwan's demographics show it to be a fast-aging society, he warned, the country will have "fewer producers than consumers" and its social support system will become bankrupt.

Yaung attributed this "vicious circle" to growing injustices in society, people's short-sightedness, profit-oriented lawmakers dominating the Legislature, and weak government policy.

He cited for example the government policy of giving preferential rates to those aged over 65 when they take buses or high- speed trains -- out of the desire to win their votes.

"I myself am delighted to enjoy such preferential treatment, but I have to say this is a populist and bastard policy because the richest people are also eligible for such treatment -- why are they not excluded?" he said.

The right way of reforming the nation's tax system is to levy heavier taxes on single and rich people, demanding more from high income earners and those who choose not to get married, he said. (May 27, 2012)

The United Daily News:

Yaung did not mince his words when he lambasted lawmakers who are "fed and controlled" by conglomerates for amending the law to lower the tax burden on the well-to-do and hampering government efforts to raise health and labor insurance premiums.

Yaung was invited by social workers and social councilors unions to give a talk on "health and long-term care policy in an aging society" in Taipei.

Speaking of social justice and a fair tax policy, he said Taiwan should not be controlled by "profit-oriented" lawmakers and capitalists who have joined hands in blocking the capital gains tax.

"Taiwan should not remain a populist society. The government should do a better job explaining its policy initiatives to the people," he said.

Yaung said failure to reform the nation's health insurance policy by adjusting premium rates for different income earners has resulted in "rich people enjoying a good time and ordinary citizens having a hard time."

With government debts mounting, he said, the national health insurance program will not be able to survive for another 10 to 15 years, "and we cannot rule out the possibility of Taiwan becoming another Greece -- going broke."

A striking example of what he called "social injustice" is the high percentage of tax revenues in Taiwan coming from the wage and salary earners. "Seventy-five percent of our tax revenues are contributed by them," he said.

Blasting the indiscriminate preferential social welfare policy for seniors as a "populist and bastard" system, he said he is personally delighted to use his "senior citizen card" when taking buses -- as it gives him half-price discount.

But to make up for this, Yaung said, he donates his "share of responsibility" to health care and various charity groups. (May 27, 2007)

(By S.C. Chang)