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[Editorial] Failed Passage of Budget Bill

Posted December. 10, 2009 09:00,   


The National Assembly yesterday ended its second regular session without narrowing differences over next year’s budget. Its 30-day extra parliamentary session will begin today, but the passage of the budget bill is unlikely this year due to disputes over funding for the four-river restoration project and a change to the developmental plan for Sejong City, which will house government agencies in the central region of the country. Parliament has failed to meet the Dec. 2 deadline for the bill’s passage, the seventh time it has done so.

Opposition parties can oppose the river and Sejong City projects, but disrupting parliamentary functions due to the budget bill worth 291.8 trillion won (251.1 billion U.S. dollars) is tantamount to denying the National Assembly’s legitimacy. The main opposition Democratic Party adjourned Tuesday the last plenary session of the Assembly in protest over the ruling Grand National Party`s unilateral passage of the budget for the river project at a meeting of the parliamentary committee for land, transport and maritime affairs. The ruling party is not free from blame, either. It railroaded the budget bill at a standing committee meeting instead of persuading the opposition party into agreement.

The 100-day parliamentary regular session has been crippled due to disputes over Sejong City, the river restoration project, and medical bills. Of 4,735 pending parliamentary issues including 4,593 bills, only 108 cases have been passed, the lowest since 2005. Stranded in parliamentary purgatory are bills on national interests and competitiveness and the people’s livelihood, such as deploying troops to Afghanistan; allowing multiple unions at one workplace and banning full-time unionists; the incorporation of Seoul National University; and the repayment of student loans after college graduates land jobs. Worse, discussion is absent on advancing parliamentary operations and abolishing violence in parliament.

Despite dereliction of their duties, lawmakers have spent 9.17 billion won (7.89 million dollars) of taxpayers’ money in the name of legislation and policy development. The budget under the control of the land committee was raised 3.48 trillion won (2.99 billion dollars) to 30.2 trillion won (26 billion dollars), but will fund a host of pork barrel projects for members of the parliamentary committee on construction and transportation. They are apparently taking what they can get while neglecting their duties and placing party interests above anything else.

Even ordinary people do not close a year by putting off a job they must finish. This is also unimaginable for private companies. Indeed, Korea’s lawmakers are undermining national competitiveness.