Thursday, January 11, 2007

Published on Taipei Times

Editorial: All groups deserve fair treatment

Thursday, Jan 11, 2007, Page 8
The amendments to the Statute Governing the Reconstruction of Weathered Military Communities (國軍老舊眷村改建條例) recently proposed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators have taken an unfair welfare practice to a new level.

One of the amendments, whose first reading was passed on Tuesday, makes it a requirement for contractors involved in government-led urban renewal projects in military communities to compensate residents affected by the work -- even in cases where houses were built without a permit.

The legislature also passed a first reading of an amendment proposed by KMT legislators Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) and Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) to expand government subsidies to veterans with dependents living outside military communities. Every home belonging to those in this group -- which the Ministry of National Defense estimates at 430,000 people -- would receive a sum of NT$3.2 million for renovation fees.

If that bill were to make it to a second and third reading, it could impose a ridiculous financial burden on the government, somewhere in the region of NT$1.3 trillion.

Taiwanese work hard to earn their wages yet decades later are still paying back mortgage and bank loans.

Contrast this with residents in military residential compounds set up to house soldiers and family members who came to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) army in 1949.

Since 1972, the group has been well taken care of by the ministry. In order to look after military personnel and their dependents, the government promulgated the Operational Guidelines for the Reconstruction of Weathered Military Communities.

Under the guidelines, households in veterans' villages located on state-owned land were given a 70 percent government subsidy for the purchase of new housing -- amounting to practically free housing in Taipei and other areas.

Over the years, the group continued to enjoy quasi-free housing purchased by the government, in addition to monthly subsidies. And these benefits carry over from generation to generation.

Veterans made a contribution of sorts to the nation and are more or less entitled to the NT$13,550, if not more, monthly subsidy that they receive.

But aren't farmers -- who only receive NT$5,000 a month -- contributing just as much to the nation?

The government has given too much to this group, to the extent that over time it has become detrimental to other groups.

Many aging farmers, fishermen and laborers have had far worse living conditions and financial burdens than their military counterparts. The government hasn't purchased houses for, or given housing subsidies to, any of these people.

The Democratic Progressive Party cannot call itself a party that stands for social justice if it stands by while bills are passed by the pan-blue camp that pander to the interests of a specific group.

If legislators really care for the wellbeing of veterans, they should strive to find better ways of ameliorating the retired soldiers' lot than playing around with real estate.

The government should stand up to unfair legislation to ensure that distribution of welfare is not brought into disrepute.

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