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[Editorial] Enhance Budget Transparency

Posted November. 14, 2009 08:16,   


The parliamentary deliberation of the administration’s bill on the budget worth 291.8 trillion won (251.6 billion U.S. dollars) next year is limping as soon as it started. The main opposition Democratic Party rejected the deliberation, demanding that the administration presents it with detailed specifications for the controversial project to restore four major rivers in Korea. Other experts say the National Assembly will likely fail to meet the Dec. 2 deadline for the passage of the budget bill.

If carried out successfully, the four-river project can catch the two rabbits of water management and reinvigorating the slumping provincial economy. Some say the opposition party’s offensive is aimed at hampering state management in consideration of next year’s local elections and the 2012 presidential election. The administration’s amateurism, however, is the cause for the controversy.

When the administration submitted the 2010 budget bill, it failed to disclose detailed specifics of the budget for the river project. It simply presented to parliament a demand for 3.5 trillion won (three billion U.S. dollars). A Democratic Party lawmaker said the administration simply set the amount while hastily deciding on specific expenditures. Ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Sim Jae-chul, chairman of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, also said the budget plan for the river project was “insincere.” Such an “ask-no-question” budget deserves criticism.

The administration also failed to end its long practice of covering up the “special activities budget” for the National Intelligence Service by including it into the budget for government ministries. The Democratic Party said the spy agency’s special activities budget, which was “hidden” in those of seven ministries, was 267.8 billion won (230.9 million U.S. dollars).

In 2005, when the same practice came under criticism, then Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan said the special activities budget dispersed throughout other ministries’ budgets was spent by the ministries in consultation with the spy agency but not for arbitrary spending. It is understandable that every detail of the intelligence agency’s budget cannot be disclosed, but the government should try to enhance its transparency.

It is primarily the administration’s responsibility to persuade parliament and taxpayers to accept the budget bill by making it appropriate and transparent. The administration should be more thorough in drawing up and spending budget for major state projects, which could lead to a waste of taxpayers’ money.