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[Editorial] Ruling Party Conspiracy for Budget Abuse?

Posted November. 03, 2008 09:28,   


Lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party belonging to the National Assembly`s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts are found to have submitted a list of social overhead capital projects for their constituencies to their party’s budget committee, which reportedly secretly encouraged its lawmakers to submit the list. The party is planning to hand over the list to the Planning and Finance Ministry, which is in charge of the budget, to reflect their lawmakers demands on the budget bill.

One lawmaker asked for 73.9 billion won (57.2 million U.S. dollars) for eight infrastructure projects, such as expansion of a national highway. Another requested 52.6 billion won (40.7 million dollars) for four projects, such as construction of a road. The question is, will the party’s 29 budget committee members seek more money for their constituencies to help economic revival or simply advance their political careers?

In a desperate measure to overcome the crisis by soothing the pain of the working people and companies badly hit by the severe economic slowdown, the Lee Myung-bak administration has even neglected its previous principle of a small government in expanding the budget. Naturally, next year’s revised emergency budget will have to be used for areas absolutely necessary for stimulating the economy, new growth engines and projects to help low-income earners.

The government is not expanding the budget because of a surplus. As the administration says, tax revenues are not sufficient enough to cover the proposed additional budget of 10 trillion won (7.7 billion dollars), leaving no choice but to issue government bonds to make up the shortfall. The people will be the ones who will eventually shoulder the cost.

If lawmakers collude to increase pork barrel and unnecessary projects, stretched fiscal spending will only burden the people further rather than achieve the goal of overcoming the economic crisis. Lee Hahn-koo, chairman of the budget committee, has warned against pork barrel projects, saying, “We have to evaluate whether the increased budget is used for productive projects.” Now is not the time to party with the emergency budget. Ruling party lawmakers must not consider the increased budget as booty from their victories in the presidential and general elections. They should instead exercise more caution and get even stricter on budget spending if they have the slightest idea of the people’s difficulty.

The Korean economy has been hit hard by the shock of the global financial crisis because of the government`s clumsy responses, quickly losing the people’s trust. They have shown no signs of regret. Instead, they have been seeking to spend the budget as lavishly as possible. Was this what the party waited to do after spending 10 years as the opposition? The party chairman and lawmakers must rule out pork barrel projects.