Discussions for the COVID-19 disaster relief fund through the second complementary budget are not making a lot of progresses. The plan to provide the fund to all citizens announced after the dinner meeting between Song Young-gil, chairman of the Democratic Party of Korea, and Lee Jun-suk, leader of the People Power Party, intensified the confusion. “The fund will be provided to small business owners first, and then to all citizens,” said the People Power Party 100 minutes after the announcement, which met with a fierce backlash from inside, but it was not enough to calm the confusion.
Lee’s carelessness should be criticized. Level 4 social distancing rules are implemented due to the spread of the new Delta strain, and no one knows for how long this would be prolonged.
The government may have to focus on supporting small business owners by reducing the disaster relief fund of 250,000 won which was promised to be given to the bottom 80 percent income households. “We will not increase the amount of the supplementary budget,” sad Lee. But how on earth is he going to provide more support to small business owners while providing the fund to all citizens? The fund should be used to support small business owners rather than as disaster relief funds even if that means reducing other spendings from the supplementary budget of 33 trillion won.
The stance of the ruling party and Song is not understandable either. Leaders of the ruling party including Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung argue that all citizens should receive the disaster relief fund while former ruling party leader Lee Nak-yeon and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun argued against it. The People Power Party has been at a loss and never adjusted its agreement to provide the fund to the bottom 80 percent. The party furtively changed its opinion to provide the fund to all citizens at the supreme council meeting on Tuesday, saying, “The opposite party also agreed.”
Leaders of the ruing and the opposite parties made a sudden agreement on how to effective use several trillion won of taxpayer money at times of COVID-19 crisis. It is almost funny to watch one of them backing out, saying it was a “misunderstanding” and the other using it to change the party’s opinion. “I don’t think we should follow a political decision on how to use the budget,” said Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Hong Nam-ki, announcing his disagreement on providing the fund to all citizens. But no one who has followed the past trails would be sure about how well he would stand against the pressure of the ruling party.