Taiwan passes controversial Bill cutting veterans' pensions

TAIPEI • Taiwan's military veterans will see their pensions cut as soon as next month after Parliament passed a controversial Bill that had sparked violent demonstrations.

Wednesday's vote marks a victory for President Tsai Ing-wen, whose attempts to make sweeping pension cutbacks since she came to power two years ago have faced intense opposition.

Senior veterans will see their monthly stipend cut by more than 20 per cent over the next decade, after a smaller initial drop, according to official estimates.

The government says veterans of lower ranks will see less severe cuts to their pensions.

President Tsai has said pension reform is her most important task, with official reports warning that an unreformed pension system could be bankrupt by 2020.

But thousands of veterans and other civil servants have regularly gathered outside Parliament to protest against the cuts.

Ms Tsai said her government has completed the critical reform that "every leader had wanted to do", but did not. She told reporters yesterday that the reduced expenditures will be injected back into the pension funds to make them more sustainable.

Ms Tsai admitted that some retirement plans will be affected, apologising and thanking veterans for their sacrifice.

"It is hard for third parties to understand that feeling of discontent and helplessness for most of those who will have less money in their pockets," she said.

But she said the majority can understand the country's predicament "even though there has been a lot of emotions and dissatisfaction in the course of reform".

A former lieutenant-colonel will initially see his monthly stipend cut from NT$70,797 (S$3,180) to NT$69,353, and eventually to NT$56,360 after 10 years, according to government estimates.

The majority of public sector retirees are supporters of the opposition Kuomintang, which relinquished its majority in Taiwan's Parliament for the first time in 2016, after losing elections to Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party.

Legislators passed a separate pension reform Bill last June that targeted civil servants. The government hopes both Bills will come into effect on July 1.

As Taiwan's economy has slowed down in recent decades, government jobs have become increasingly attractive, placing additional burdens on state finances.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Taiwan passes controversial Bill cutting veterans' pensions'. Subscribe