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Pork Barrel Projects Feared From Higher Nat`l Budget

Posted November. 03, 2008 09:28,   


Controversy over pork barrel spending is likely to erupt in the wake of a move by advisers from the ruling Grand National Party.

The party’s advisers to the National Assembly`s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts recently sent a “confidential” e-mail to 29 party lawmakers on the committee to submit budget proposals on social overhead capital projects in their respective constituencies.

President Lee Myung-bak last week requested measures for fiscal expansion in a speech to the National Assembly to revive the ailing economy, raising fears that the extra spending could go to fund pork barrel projects of party lawmakers in their constituencies.

The advisers sent an e-mail titled “Urgent Notice (highly confidential)” to the aides of party lawmakers on the committee Thursday, reminding them to submit budget proposals to the advisers on SOC projects by Friday morning.

“The types of SOC projects are limited to those for extensive sewage systems, national roads, expressways, ramps to industrial complexes, alternate roads, metropolitan subways, subways, railways, and railways in large metropolitan areas,” the sender of the e-mail obtained by The Dong-A Ilbo said.

“Projects near completion are preferred, and those that must start from scratch have a low chance of being approved.”

The majority of the 29 committee members from the ruling party submitted details on projects needing extra funding at the end of last month. Many were SOC projects relevant to their constituencies, with funding requests of more than 10 billion won in many cases.

Certain members included new projects in their proposals, such as building sports facilities. The advisers will soon collect the proposals and deliver them to the Strategy and Finance Ministry.

An aide to a committee member said, “We submitted the details of the budget needed for our projects to the special advisers after receiving a phone call urging us to submit our proposals as soon as possible, so that they can be reflected in the government’s revised fiscal plan for next year.”

Another aide said, “At a time when the government plans to speed up SOC projects, it will be in the interest of both the government and the ruling party to fund projects in the ruling party’s constituencies.”

“The economic crisis obliges us to take caution, but such a practice has been customary for quite some time.”

On the e-mail, Ha Yun-hee, one of the special advisers to the committee, said, “We sent out the e-mail to committee members to ask for their ideas in helping regional development at the working level. This was not officially initiated by the party and the details of project proposals have not been delivered to the Strategy and Finance Ministry.”

The government will submit a revised budget plan for next year to the National Assembly to ask for an additional 10 trillion won (7.7 billion U.S. dollars) to supplement the original budget of 273.8 trillion won (212 billion dollars). The goal is to create jobs and boost the economy by increasing SOC projects, especially those for roads, railways and water resources.