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Legislature votes to cut retired leaders' benefits

Lu suggests legislation is aimed at 'punishing' President Chen

Legislature votes to cut retired leaders' benefits

Responding to public concern over a string of corruption scandals implicating President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) close aides and in-laws, lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties yesterday jointly decided to slash the amount of preferential treatment that retired presidents and vice presidents receive.Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) are not subject to that amendment, as the law will not apply retroactively.
Opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus whip Pan Wei-kang said the amendment, which was passed by an extraordinary legislative session that ended yesterday, will help institutionalize relevant government policy on the treatment of retired national leaders.
Pan claimed that the amendment was not designed "to accommodate certain people" as implied by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) earlier in the day. Lu said earlier that the move was designed as a form of "punishment" for what the opposition sees as the ineptitude of Chen and his administration.
Lu Hsueh-chang, a legislative caucus party whip of the opposition People First Party, also welcomed the passage of the amendment, saying that the law will help save NT$68 million a year.
Lin Chuo-shui, a legislator affiliated with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the amendment to the presidential pensions law is not "reformatory" enough to be fair to the people.
Lin said that although the amended law cancels lifelong payments to retired presidents and vice presidents and dramatically curtails other preferential treatment, the treatment accorded to Taiwan's retired leaders is still too extravagant compared to that accorded to their counterparts in the United States, which has much higher per capita income than Taiwan's.
Lin said it is particularly unacceptable that the amendment still maintains preferential treatment in addition to monthly allowances for Taiwan's retired vice presidents. Retired U.S. vice presidents are given no preferential treatment besides a monthly allowance, he noted.
According to the amendment, a retired president is entitled to NT$250,000 per month for a period as long as the number of years he or she served in the post.
Other preferential treatment includes NT$8 million in office expenses in the first year of retirement, NT$7 million in the second year, NT$6 million for the third year and NT$5 million from the fourth year on. Furthermore, a retired president will be provided with eight to 12 security personnel to protect his or her safety.
For a retired vice president, the monthly allowance is NT$180,000, with office expenses set at NT$4 million for the first year, NT$3.5 million for the second year, and NT$3 million for the third year and NT$2.5 million from the fourth year on, plus the protection of four to eight security personnel.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from the Taiwan Solidarity Union, noted that the NT$70 million earmarked annually for the maintenance of the mausoleums of the late presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) are "obviously excessive" compared with the NT$15.2 million budgeted for the security of former presidents and vice presidents.
TSU legislative caucus convener David Huang said there is no legal basis for the Ministry of National Defense to earmark an annual budget to maintain the mausoleums and assign soldiers to protect them and suggested that the remains of the two late presidents should be buried to save money.