Pension reform a farce

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Pension reform a farce

The president’s cabinet approved a bill to amend the Government Employees Pension Act in a meeting yesterday. The bill was unchanged from the original that the committee for developing pension programs had proposed earlier, even though it was criticized for being too generous to public employees. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security explained that the bill was unchanged because public opinion supported it.

But the committee meetings were plagued by complaints. One member said that it was difficult to express his opinions in the civil servant-dominated committee. In hearings on national pension program reform on Oct. 14, unionized civil workers even stormed the place and caused chaos.

Participants said it was difficult to even hold the hearings, let alone listen to public opinion. Experts complain that efforts to reform the public pension system never had a chance. Some say that the reforms shouldn’t have been left to civil workers. Civil workers from the Ministry of Public Administration and Security served as committee organizers and representatives from civil workers’ organizations participated as members. This made it hard to argue that benefits for civil workers should be reduced.

Now it is up to the National Assembly. Reform of the public employee pension program is important because it will be followed by reform in pension programs for teachers at private schools and for professional soldiers.

The ruling and opposition parties must present a new bill to reform the pension program. The keys are sustaining equality and resolving deficits in the fund.

The committee says its bill is designed to increase individual fees and to lower benefits but civil workers still receive much bigger benefits after retirement than pensioners in general.

If the fund is managed the way it is now, in 10 years the deficit will be five times bigger than now. As the Korea Development Institute requires, individual fees must be increased by more than 10 percent and benefits must be lowered substantially in order to resolve the two key issues.

As the world economy suffers, all tighten their belts. Civil workers must do the same. They should be thankful that citizens have protected their jobs so far. They should stop asking for the impossible - that their lives after retirement be protected with taxpayer money. Civil servants must not even think of disrupting discussions at the National Assembly. The people’s patience is running out.
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