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July 23, 2017

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Gov't sees biggest spending cut in a decade

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Legislature late last night cut over NT$37.2 billion in expenditure from the central government's 2013 budget, the most in a decade, after a day of political gridlock.

The axe falls hardest on retired civil servants, teachers and servicemen who saw a NT$11.67 billion cut from the proposed NT$13.48 billion in year-end bonus budgets.

Other spending curbs include the complete cut of NT$1.28 billion in proposed transportation subsidies for central government employees. Similar subsidies will not be listed in future budget proposals, the lawmakers decided.

The budget approval came after hours of political horse trading. The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) refused to review the budget for much of yesterday, rejecting any negotiations unless the Cabinet agreed with their demands.

During a press conference, TSU Legislators Huang Wen-lin, Lin Shih-chia and Hsu Chung-hsin called for a Cabinet reshuffle by the end of January, for the rejection of the Next Media merger before the amendment of media diversity laws, and for state-run firm performance bonuses to be eliminated.

Hsu described state-run company performance bonuses as ripping off the people, and demanded that such bonuses be listed as a discussion topic in the budget review.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that the TSU's demands reflected their opinions of the government, and that he respects their rights. Wang added that he will continue negotiating with the TSU to reach a consensus on the budget cuts.

Meanwhile, special payments for central government ministers were cut to 75 percent of their original sum, while NT$1.3 billion was cut from transportation fees for central government officials.

State-firm Employees to Sue;Plan Rally for Feb. 3

In response to the benefit cuts, Taiwan Petroleum Workers' Union Chairman Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安) said late yesterday that worker unions of several state-owned firms demand the Executive Yuan to clarify the legal basis for slashing approved performance bonuses.

The unions will file administrative litigation against the changes, he said.

The unions will also postpone its rally from the scheduled Jan. 30 to Sunday, Feb. 3, so as not to affect public transportation during a workday, Chuang added.

Debate over Performance Bonuses by State-run Firms

The debate over the performance bonuses continued to rage even as lawmakers were still working to reach a consensus. It was confirmed later that state-run firms, including Taiwan Power Corporation, CPC Corp., Taiwan Sugar Corporation and Taiwan Water Corporation, would have their performance bonuses cut to 1.2 months' salary.

While the TSU continued to insist that the performance bonuses be eliminated completely, some lawmakers suggested cutting the bonuses in half to 1.3 months' salary. The bonus was previously set at 2.6 months.

Some lawmakers suggested that the performance bonuses be based on those offered in private firms, which they said was 1.1 months' salary. Other lawmakers said state-run firms should be offered better benefits than private companies, suggesting 1.2 months' salary.

Although lawmaker Li Tung-hau (李桐豪) suggested handing out performance bonuses based on the actual performance of the company, other lawmakers scoffed that this approach was far too detailed to draft.

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