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[Editorial] Lavish Year-end Budget Spending

Posted December. 18, 2008 07:26,   


Construction work is being done on city streets and pedestrian paths at many locations with the end of the year looming. Certain construction projects are necessary, but others are being wastefully carried out by provincial governments that are spending leftover budget before the New Year. They are blowing taxpayers’ money because they fear a cut in their budgets for next year if they have money remaining this year. Whenever flawless road surfacing is removed, precious tax money is wasted.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will devise a guideline on extending the restriction period of pedestrian road excavation work from two to five years. The city says this will prevent waste of the road management budget, a practice which is repeated every year. The guideline, however, is only applied to new roads created under road improvement plans, with general roads excluded from the rule and rendering it only partially effective. Experts say that if builders improve the precision of paving work and the quality of materials, pavements can be used for more than 10 years instead of five. As such, the excavation restriction period must be specified and road expansion must include all roads and streets.

Spending leftover budget is also openly conducted at the National Assembly, whose duty is to prevent budget waste. A flurry of forums and public hearings is being hosted simultaneously by lawmakers under different pretexts, leaving parliament crowded with people. This is because of a "policy development" fund valued at 30 million won (22,000 U.S. dollars) per lawmaker that has been paid out since 2005. To get this fund, a lawmaker must host an event for whatever purpose and submit receipts to the Assembly.

Because of this, the parliamentary budget committee was right to exclude this year “compensatory overseas tours.” Committee members had previously gone on such tours as a common practice after approving next year’s budget. Reviewing the state budget and adjusting budgetary figures are a basic obligation of lawmakers, who are paid salaries. Something lawmakers should not do is to take overseas tours and waste dollars simply after fulfilling their duties. Did they make major contributions to the nation? No, so such practices must be exposed and brought to an end.

A sizable amount of taxpayers’ money is being wasted, be it at ministries, the judiciary, the National Assembly and provincial governments. If the government refrains from spending its unused annual budget, it could help ease the taxpayers’ burden. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama pledged that his government will closely examine every single line of the budget and constantly reduce wasteful state spending. So why can`t Korean civil servants and politicians do the same?