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[Editorial] Compromise is the Way to Go

Posted December. 17, 2009 09:31,   


Main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Nak-yeon, who chairs the parliamentary committee on food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, was criticized by members of his own party at a meeting Tuesday. They were upset over his passage of the budget for the four-river restoration project under bipartisan consensus Monday. Party leaders said they will reverse the passage at a meeting of the National Assembly`s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts. Lee was at a loss.

What Lee passed amounted to 406.6 billion won (349 million U.S. dollars) for the project, far lower than the requested budget of 5.4 trillion won (4.8 billion dollars). While he elicited an agreement by presenting a compromise granting the amount requested to build river banks at 96 reservoirs near the four rivers, but allocated just 70 billion won (60 million dollars) for other reservoirs. This shows that even a hotly contentious issue can be settled if the ruling and opposition parties are willing to compromise. It is regrettable that Lee, who simply did his duty, is being treated as a “criminal” by his own party.

If a lesson is to be learned from what happened at the meeting, the ruling and opposition parties can agree to pass the budget for the river project. By doing so, the ruling party can pursue the venture as intended while the opposition can save face and secure its practical interests. As such, there is a way to settle their differences but the National Assembly is stuck in limbo due to the restoration project. If the National Assembly fails to deal with next year’s budget, the government will be forced to make the unprecedented move of devising an emergency budget bill. Stranded in parliamentary purgatory is bills on national interests and the people’s livelihood.

A glimmer of hope emerged yesterday as both parties agreed to normalize the parliamentary committee on education, science and technology, whose function had been suspended due to a boycott by ruling party lawmakers. The possibility also arose for the passage of the budget bill for the river project through compromise. Floor leader Ahn Sang-soo of the ruling Grand National Party said, “We’re willing to cut the budget for the river project if there are unnecessary elements.” Democratic Party floor leader Lee Kang-rae said he is willing to resolve the matter through dialogue and negotiations. Choosing negotiations over a head-on collision is beneficial for both sides. A meeting is also needed between President Lee Myung-bak and leaders of both parties to ease tension and facilitate bipartisan dialogue.

A closer look at the river project will prove the Democratic Party’s opposition as unfounded. The party said the project is a scheme to revive the cross-country canal project the government has scrapped. To keep the momentum of compromise, the party should strive to lead the project to serve both the interests of the country and people. For their part, the government and the ruling party should take negotiations seriously while making compromises. This is the only way to secure public consensus for the project.