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Yao says pension reforms remain on track

Yao says pension reforms remain on track

Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) said yesterday that the Ministry of Civil Service would implement the pension reform program as scheduled on February 16, regardless of lawmakers' boycott and threat to block the ministry and Examination Yuan's budget.

"Reforming the pension program for retired government officials is the Examination Yuan's jurisdiction. We only take the Legislative Yuan's resolution for reference," Yao said at a press conference held by the Examination Yuan.

His remarks came a week after the pan-blue-controlled Legislative Yuan said that the Civil Service Ministry must hold off implementation of the pension reform program until lawmakers approve the plan. This would have been at the earliest by the end of February, when they are scheduled to come back from recess and start a new session.

The majority pan-blue legislators said that if the ministry violates the resolution, they would demand that the ministry and Examination Yuan cover all financial losses to the government coffers resulting from implementing the plan.

Frozen budgets

In an attempt to force the Examination Yuan to submit to their resolution, the Legislative Yuan froze most of the Civil Service Ministry and the Examination Yuan budgets.

Yesterday, Yao said that the current Examination Yuan would submit a copy of the revised pension program to the Legislature "based on our respect towards the Legislative Yuan."

But since the proposed revision is an administrative decree, Yao said that implementing the new pension program does not legally require the lawmakers' approval.

"The previous Examination Yuan members who mapped out the policy (in 1983), in fact, did not submit a copy of the administrative decree to the Legislative Yuan," he added.

The proposed pension reform has already caused repeated protests by teachers - retired and incumbent ones. They criticize the Democratic Progressive Party government for discrediting them by labeling them as people who are hell-bent on receiving abundant retirement pensions promised by the government.

The opponents to the new program contended that it is unfair for the DPP government to modify the pension program because it was implemented by the Kuomintang government in the 1980s to attract local talent into civil service.

Different viewpoints

Yao disagreed saying the Examination Yuan had received opinions from other social groups with differing veiwpoints from those opposed to the new program once the Examination Yuan began reviewing the current pension plan problems last year.

"We never rejected to meet the protestors. But we also tried to tell them many times that besides their opinion, we must evaluate others' sentiments on the issue," he related yesterday.

One of the major problems resulting from the existing pension plan is that many retired government employees have or would earn more money as monthly retirement pension than their salary prior to retirement. The Civil Service Ministry found that a preferential 18 percent saving interest rate enjoyed by former civil servants, schoolteachers and military personnel was closely linked to this.

Yao, a standard-bearer of reform, contended that he considered starting the new rule in February as "rare and commendable, but it would be too far to praise the change as a complete reform."

The controversial revision already presented problems to Minister of Civil Service Chu Wu-hsien who has been recieving threats from unidentified people on the phone and by mail recently.

Chu confirmed that one of his aides received a phone call from someone threatening to hurt him for promoting the policy change. Another similar threat was delivered by mail, he said.

Chu told reporters that he reported these threats to the police. But the new rule must be implemented in line with the previous consensus, he added.