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Cabinet spokesman apologizes for causing policy U-turn controversy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Executive Yuan spokesman Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) yesterday responded to public criticism over a pension policy U-turn controversy, saying that the government has not changed the method of pension distribution for military personnel, teachers and public servants, adding that he is sorry for not being able to deliver accurate information on Wednesday.

Sun's remarks came after the Executive Yuan on Wednesday night backtracked a resolution made by the Cabinet's fiscal health task force led by Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) on March 28 over the method of pension distribution for public functionaries.

The resolution made in March states that from 2015, the pension will be distributed from the current every six months to every three months. In 2017, the pension distribution will change again from every three months to every month, the resolution stated.

The United Evening News on Wednesday noon published an article, saying that the policy will reduce approximately NT$1 billion in government interest costs. Sun in the afternoon confirmed the report to local media outlets.

NT$383 Million in Savings Not Much: Jiang

The Executive Yuan, however, at 9:50 p.m. released a press statement, saying that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) backtracked the resolution during a meeting in the afternoon. Jiang said that as the policy would bring only limited benefits to the national treasury but would inconvenience pension receivers, he therefore decided to leave the current policy unchanged.

The press statement also pointed out that NT$1 billion in interest costs is inaccurate, stressing that the proposed pension distribution alteration will only reduce NT$383 million in interest costs annually.

Not a Policy U-turn: Sun

The Cabinet spokesperson yesterday during the press conference told local reporters that “It was all my fault. I did not have the latest information in hand.” Sun further explained that he did not attend the meeting on Wednesday afternoon; hence he did not know that the premier had rejected the resolution. Sun said there was no policy U-turn as the policy remains the same, adding that he is sorry for causing confusion and controversies.

When asked if Jiang's decision was made in accordance with the Presidential Office's instruction, Sun said he does not know if the Presidential Office has any opinions on the issue, adding that, however, the premier can make the decision by himself.

It's Not About Elections: Sun

After the Cabinet backtracked on its resolution, many political commentators and politicians criticized the Cabinet for changing its mind because of concerns about losing votes for public functionaries at the mayoral elections.

In response, Sun said if the Cabinet was taking the factor of elections into account, then such a proposal would not even be brought up in March. Sun further said that the current pension distribution method will remain the same at the moment, noting that he does not know if it will be altered in the future.

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