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Textbook boycott hits premier's tax reform plan
DPP and TSU demand national conference
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-21 03:01 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Premier Jiang Yi-huah did not present his tax reform package to the Legislative Yuan until Friday afternoon as the opening of its latest session was hit by an opposition boycott over government plans to change history textbooks.

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou created a furor recently by announcing that high-school textbooks should no longer mention “Taiwan” and “China” but use the terms “Republic of China” and “Mainland China” instead.

Top priorities for the new legislative session include the review of the service trade pact with China signed last summer and Taiwan’s attempts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Jiang was scheduled to deliver an address about the priorities for his Cabinet during the next session, including a major financial and taxation reform package, but the dispute prevented him from taking the podium to speak.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party said the government should call a national conference including teachers among others to discuss the textbook changes, which the Ma Administration claims are only minor.

The smaller Taiwan Solidarity Union went one step further, saying the new textbooks should only be approved after the national conference reached a consensus on any changes.

The ruling Kuomintang caucus said it could not accept the TSU demand, so the legislative session broke down in the morning. If afternoon talks failed to reach any solution, there was still no way the legislative session could be held hostage by the TSU with its three lawmakers, said KMT caucus chief Lin Hung-chih. The issue touched on different notions of history, so a total consensus would be hard to reach at any conference, he said, adding that the textbook revisions had already been officially proclaimed.

The Ministry of Education announced the changes in the history and social courses just before the Lunar New Year holiday, inciting accusations that it was trying to hide its work from the scrutiny of the Legislative Yuan and from society at large. There were also charges that the committee responsible for recommending the revisions did not contain a single historian but instead relied on some members with strong pro-China and pro-unification views.

Critics accused the ministry of violating the Constitution and relevant laws by proceeding with changes only shortly after a previous round. Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling rejected the accusations, saying the revisions were completely legal and the new wording in the textbooks was based on the Constitution itself.

According to the DPP proposal, a national conference should bring together high-school teachers in the subjects affected, national specialists and city and county governments, while other experts would also be welcome.

During the afternoon, the new legislative session did start up, though with a protest by the TSU lawmakers. “Distorting historical reality, brainwashing the Taiwanese” was the content of a placard the protesters held high before being removed from the dais by their KMT colleagues. DPP legislators also shouted protests but further away from where Jiang was supposed to speak.

In his speech, the premier announced the main directions for tax reforms which would cut taxes for wage earners and handicapped citizens while encouraging small and medium enterprises to recruit more employees.

The reform program would amount to the largest financial and taxation reform program in recent history, according to the Chinese-language United Evening News.

The changes were motivated by rising government expenditure which left little space for major new policy initiatives, the paper reported. In addition, the nation’s tax system did not fulfill the needs of a modern administration while revenue failed to rise following the modest recovery after the recent global financial crisis. The premier reportedly put part of the blame on the world crisis and on Typhoon Morakot, which hit Taiwan badly in the summer of 2008.

In his report, Jiang emphasized the need to control the levels of government debt, to change the structure of government expenditure and to consider privatizations to make existing state-owned enterprises more efficient.

Both business tax and income tax would have to be studied to see if they could be made more relevant, with exemptions for wage earners and handicapped to be expanded significantly, according to the United Evening News. Jiang was also reportedly pushing for more assistance for enterprises to recruit employees and to invest in research and development.

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