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[Editorial] Deepened income disparities

Posted September. 08, 2000 20:09,   


To put it somewhat euphemistically, our Thanksgiving Day evening`s full moon on August 15 by the lunar calendar is supposed to be the year`s brightest and largest full moon. Yet, all its bright lights and blessings, it seems, cannot evenly be imparted to everyone. On this day of thanks for the harvest season`s bounties and abundance, our profound concern goes to our fellow citizens on the welfare list as well as the unemployed people.

For some 160,000 hungry students who rely on subsidized meals at school cafeterias or food coupons at a designated eatery, the Thanksgiving holidays makes them worried instead of merry. For school cafeterias and the eateries are all closed during the holiday season. According to Seoul City`s Bureau of Educational Administration, some 8 students out of 100 cannot afford to pay tuition fees.

The effects of the economic recovery benefited only those well-off people in the upper income brackets. This lopsided benefit distribution has deepened the income disparities among the people to a greater extent than last year. According to the Bureau of Statistics` recent survey, an average, real earning per month for an urban worker`s household represented only 95.5 percent of its earnings prior to the IMF introduction in 1997. The Gini`s coefficient, an indicator of income disparities among various social strata, went up last year, showing the deepened income gap.

On Broadcast Media Day last week, President Kim Dae-Jung stated during his interview with senior reporters that he will exert greater efforts to secure productive welfare budgets because, he said, those needy people who are on the periphery of the economic recovery have yet to feel the warmth of the recovery.

But, it must be noted here that the net amount of the budget for the guarantee of people`s basic subsistence is reduced for the next fiscal year. The budget for public works projects for the unemployed is also cut. The freezing of the budget to guarantee basic subsistence for some two million people whose income is below subsistence level is proof that the administration fails to adequately understand the difficulties and hardship the needy people have to endure in their day-to-day lives.

The administration made an allowance of a 5 percent income tax deduction for those earners of over 45 million won while expanding energy tax and retaining education tax. This can hardly be justified in terms of fair taxation principles. It is a reflection of the administration`s blind adhesion to its tax-levying expediency.

The tax increase on LPG will heavily burden those small and petty business owners and poor people who mainly rely on omnibus vehicles with LPG engines for their business as well as their means of transportation.

The lamentable aspects of the budget bill are that some 2 trillion won is allotted for the public fund to rescue insolvent firms and banks while the increase to the welfare budget to guarantee the needy people`s subsistence amounts to only 200 billion won. This unjust budget bill must be righted during the parliamentary deliberations.