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President Tsai makes statement on pension reform
President Tsai makes statement on pension reform

The Legislative Yuan, meeting in an extra session, passed pension reform bills for civil servants, public school employees, and political appointees this week, and on the afternoon of June 30 President Tsai Ing-wen made a statement on pension reform in which she thanked government colleagues and members of the general public who participated in and supported pension reform efforts. She also called on people throughout society to appreciate the progress that has been achieved thus far in nation's reform efforts, and maintain social solidarity.

The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:

The Legislative Yuan has been very busy this week. We have passed laws governing the pension system for public servants, public school employees, and political appointees. Now that these laws have been passed, pension system bankruptcy is no longer an urgent crisis in Taiwan.

By the passage of these laws, we have lowered the income replacement rate for civil servant pensions, reduced or eliminated the preferential interest rate of 18% paid to retired civil servants and public school employees, and pushed back the age of eligibility for pensions. It is estimated that these actions will save the public coffers NT$1.4 trillion. We will take the money saved and inject it into the Public Service Pension Fund to ensure that it will remain viable for at least 30 years.

At the same time, in order to uphold the interests of civil servants and public school employees, we have also designed our systemic reforms to provide transitional periods during which adjustments are gradually phased in, and established pension income floors to reduce the impact of these reforms.

So first of all I want to thank all civil servants and public school employees. I thank all of you for your willingness, at a time when the nation is in difficulty, to sacrifice personal interests to the public good, and once again play a decisive role in helping to stabilize the nation.

I especially want to thank the civil servants and public school employees who have already retired. You served the nation and society faithfully throughout your careers, and now you have helped the nation negotiate a difficult pass. I really cannot thank you enough. I do believe that the way you've acquitted yourselves will make our younger civil servants and public school employees take even greater pride in their work.

Next, I want to thank all the members of the Legislative Yuan for your hard work. In particular, special thanks are due to the members of the ruling party caucus. The government is an integrated unit. We have all remained united and succeeded in smoothly achieving the difficult task of pension reform. Reform is what we pledged to do, and we have not let the people down.

In addition, during the process of deliberations at the Legislative Yuan, we adopted many good-faith amendment proposals put forward by the opposition party caucuses, including suggestions to lower the pension eligibility age for indigenous persons, and to allow divorced spouses to claim pensions. The opposition parties also worked very hard on the pension reform, so I also want to express my thanks to them. I firmly believe that history will remember the contributions of the Ninth Legislative Yuan.

Third, I want to thank our colleagues at the Examination Yuan and the Executive Yuan for their hard work, as well as the members of the Pension Reform Committee. Consensus building is a challenging process, but we all know that we had to go through that step if the pension reform effort was to succeed. Your participation has brought about the completion of a very big mission for Taiwan.

In this process, Vice President Chen Chien-jen, as convener of the Pension Reform Committee, made every effort to communicate with society and help as many people as possible understand the thinking behind pension reform. And Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), as the deputy convener, conscientiously solicited a wide range of views and led the Pension Reform Office as it worked to draft a pension reform proposal. I especially want to thank those two for their persistence and dedication.

Fourth, I want to thank all the people of Taiwan. Democracy is an important part of this nation's heritage, and our highest value. Over the past year, there has been some tumult, to be sure, but the firm support of the people of Taiwan for reform got us through the tough spots. This was key.

Democracy has once again made Taiwan great. Democracy is no longer just a value; now it is a method of resolving controversies. For this reason, I thank all the people from the bottom of my heart. To be able to lead this kind of nation is a source of incomparable honor and pride.

Pension reform affects the vital interests of people from all different lines of work. So even broaching the topic of pension reform can spark all sorts of controversy. And that is why, when previous presidents tried to promote pension reform, they always fell a bit short of their goal.

We've been subject to intense pressure from all quarters recently, but we stood firm.

This round of pension reform has an important significance, for we've proven that pension reform is neither a political minefield, nor a taboo issue that absolutely cannot be broached. And no one will become destitute because of the pension reform passed during the Tsai Ing-wen administration.

In the process of reform, pressure is inevitable, and those pressures are mine to bear. All criticisms should be directed to me. I urge the public to stay calm. Above all, please don't subject certain members of the Legislative Yuan to irrational verbal attacks. If someone has to pay the price, I will do it. There is no need to make life difficult for anyone else.

I realize that some people still take issue with the pension reform. Some feel that the reforms have not gone far enough, and some feel they are moving too slowly. Such criticisms are expressions of concern for the nation, and I humbly accept them. However, I call upon everyone in our society to appreciate the progress we've achieved in our reform efforts.

All systems need to be continually adjusted to stay in synch with the times, and our pension system is no exception. In carrying out the pension reform, we established a mechanism for regular reviews. Now that we've had this successful experience, when it next comes time for a review of the pension system, we will have more confidence.

My fellow citizens, Taiwan has finally achieved a sustainable pension system under which "the government can afford to pay for pensions, and retirees can receive them, now and in the future." Despite all the pressure, we endured, and made good on our pledge to carry out reform.

The completion of our reform efforts marks the beginning of social solidarity. This country still has many other problems that we need to continue working on. But since we completed something as difficult and complex as pension reform, is there anything we Taiwanese can't accomplish?

And finally, once again, I want to thank everyone who took part in this pension reform, and the members of the public who supported our efforts. People of Taiwan—let's keep moving forward!

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