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[Opinion] Politics That Produces Tax Thief

Posted September. 08, 2001 08:33,   


`Assistant staff of the U.S. President was not aware of what he did even when the Air-Force-One took off from Denver Airport in Colorado towards Washington D.C. Next day, the New York Times disclosed that the staff did not pay for the shipping cost, with a picture that showed five boxes of Coors Beer, a special product of Colorado, being loaded to the cargo compartment of the plane. As the news broke out, the staff paid $600 for the shipping charge, but he was finally dismissed from his position`.

The story, which really happened during President Ronald Reagan`s administration, illustrates the U.S. people`s strict standard on tax. What would happen if the same situation took place in our nation?

The government may say that ``So what? Why does the press try to find fault with using an empty cargo compartment? Even after tax investigation, they have not come to their own senses.``

The people simply may not respond, chastising that ``while wasting trillions of wons under the name of Saemankeum business, express subway train business and the separation of medicine from pharmacy, why suddenly does government care about airplane shipping cost?``

This may be a realistic response. While there are a lot of the government officials who regard tax as blind money, this kind of report may not attract attention. Once a former head assistant staff of President in the past confessed that ``When I started to work in the government, it was frightening to see how much money the government officials spent. If they used money properly, only one third would be enough.`` Could such an environment change?

A few days ago, I went to see the review committee on the tax system development. It was the meeting that reviewed the government`s tax system reform bill, which laid out how the government would collect tax. Taxation skill that `plucks as many ducks as it can with the least noise` was demonstrated to the full. As I watched the debate between the civilian committee members who probed the problems and the government officials who evaded the questions with excuses, I thought that `how useless this is`.

Despite a good tax system, this debate is useless if the government wastes taxes forgetting the value of taxes extorted from the people.

As I anticipated, at the very same time, the supplementary budget bill was passed by the National Assembly without a single discussion. It was the moment when the use of 5 trillion won of tax, which was paid by the sweat of people`s brow, was hastily decided in a few seconds as if it was a waste to be soon disposed. Although the National Assembly Law clearly states that the budget should be reviewed by the standing committee, then, by the budget committee before it goes to the general meeting, the lawmakers of this country hastily dealt with the budget even without holding four standing committees out of six.

Only the government, which requested an extra amount of budget assuming the drastic cut by the opposition party, must have been satisfied. People`s tax was only a troublesome matter in the midst of political dispute over the issue of the dismissal of minister.

This has been the case all the time. For instance, the National Assembly`s budget review on 100 trillion won of taxes has been delayed until the last minute due to the political dispute every year, and was finally passed through compromise (closer to illicit union) based on the total amount without item-by-item discussion.

Review on the closing accounts at the end of year is worth watching. The government`s submission of a report on the closing accounts alone is okay. It seems unreasonable to expect the National Assembly to probe the use of taxes and to correct any wrong doing.

How detail would the people, who live only to pay taxes that `follow to the grave`, know about the treatment of taxes?

As the Ministry of Planning and Budget reported the budget plan for the next year to Cheong Wa Dae, it signals the season of the budget Assembly. According to the plan, the government-drafted budget bill is to be decided at the end of this month, and the National Assembly will begin the review. However, a `slugfest` in the political circle forecasts a deficient budget review this year.

Tax payers cannot pay too much attention to whether DJP break up or any bustle over the issue of the remaining of the Premier Lee Han-Dong. This is because the people can become accomplice of political circle that produces the tax thief, if the people do not watch carefully whether the National Assembly properly deals with the use of taxes we paid.

Lee Kyoo-Min (Editorialist)

Lee Kyu-Min kyumlee@donga.com