The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should review its compensation package for Taiwan's foreign-service personnel, as some of them received salaries that were higher than most of the public servants in Taiwan, including the president and vice president, opposition Kuomintang Legislator John Chiang said yesterday.
Chiang made the remarks during a legislative interpellation session, in which the legislators were briefed by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) on the compensation structure of Taiwan's foreign-service personnel.
Chiang compared the average monthly salary of Taiwan's ambassador to the Republic of Chad of NT$567,996 with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) NT$462,300 and urged the government to carry out a comprehensive review on personnel compensation under the principles of reasonableness and fairness.
Kau was also surprised about Chiang's finding and said that the ministry would investigate the issue, as it would be "a bit ridiculous" if some of the ambassadors were really entitled to such a huge salary.
Kau however added that due to reasons such as hardship degree, extra expenses incurred from relocating, traffic conditions, expenses for dependents' education, foreign-service expatriates were usually paid about double or triple amount of domestic public servants that have similar seniority.
While agreeing with Chiang's suggestion to reassess the compensation package, Kau noted that a strong sense of mission would be required for all appointed diplomats, who should be willing to serve the country regardless of the compensation.
"I felt it's an honor and privilege to serve the country and wouldn't be very concerned by how generous the pay is," he added.
Meanwhile, Chiang suggested the ministry readjust subsidies allotted for clothing and miscellaneous disbursements according to the location of the foreign post.
"Do you need to wear so many tailcoats in a poverty-stricken area?" he asked.
Chiang further suggested that the ministry should also review the number of its "non-regular" ambassadors, which were referred to ambassadorships doled out to political appointees instead of being promoted through normal channels.
As a former foreign minister, Chiang said that the appointment process of the "non-regular" ambassadors during the KMT governance was strict and would require a certain level of seniority in the foreign-service field.
The legislator called on the foreign ministry to be prudent when appointing diplomats and to handle the issue with fairness compared to other career diplomats.
As non-career diplomats accounted for nearly 60 percent of the "non-regular" ambassadors, Chiang claimed that the government inappropriately exploited political resources to spread its clout and that professionally-trained diplomats were not being fully utilized.