Government to hold national conference on pension reform: official
Taipei, Sept. 3 (CNA) The government will hold a national conference on pension reform in January or February next year, an official said Saturday.
Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) made the remarks at a news conference after military personnel, civil servants and public school teachers took to the streets in Taipei earlier that day to call for dignity and to protest against what they described as the government's smearing of them in controversy over the country's retirement pension system.
The rally marked the first large-scale protest, which police estimated as involving more than 120,000 people, by public sector employees in Taiwan.
Addressing questions raised by the protesters about how there can be reform without financial discipline, Lin said that the financial discipline of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is superior to that of the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration.
Lin said that the outstanding debt of the central government was 26.3 percent of the GDP in 2000. In 2008, when the Kuomintang administration took over, the ratio of outstanding debt to the GDP rose to 29.7 percent.
After eight years of KMT administration, the outstanding debt ratio had climbed to 34.2 percent of GDP by 2016.
"This shows that the financial discipline of the DPP administration was superior to that of the KMT administration," he said.
Furthermore, he went on, the government's financial situation is not the only factor that needs to be taken into account in the consideration of pension reforms.
The Executive Yuan has also said that pension reform does not target selective occupations, as claimed by the protesters, but will be universal, regardless of occupation -- "a pension reform participated in by all the people."
According to a pension reform committee, there are currently 13 different pension programs in effect in Taiwan.
The average monthly pension is NT$49,379 (US$1,554) for military personnel, NT$56,383 for civil servants, and NT$68,025 for public school teachers, compared with NT$17,223 for private school teachers, NT$16,179 for employees covered by labor insurance, NT$7,256 for farmers, and NT$3,628 for workers covered by general public insurance, the committee said.
The Action Alliance to Monitor Pension Reforms, which organized Saturday's protest, said that if the government continues to "bully and smear them," blaming them for the problems in the pension system, it will not rule out the possibility of staging another protest in October.
Chang Wen-lan (張文蘭), a spokesperson of the Presidential Office, said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was happy to see the protest end peacefully, as all voices in a pluralistic society should be respected.
Pension reform will require coordination and consensus-building, and the government welcomes input from different voices, Chang said.
The government hopes that protesters can sit down after the march to talk about pension reform and help work out a tangible program in order to build a sustainable pension system.
(By Claudia Liu , Lin Hsin-hui, Chu Tze-wei and Lilian Wu)ENDITEM/J
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