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Will the 2010 Budget Bill Be Passed on Time?

Posted December. 31, 2009 09:08,   


With just a day ahead of setting a provisional budget that will only allow government spending within the range of this year’s budget, the ruling and opposition parties Wednesday narrowed certain differences over the general budget bill for 2010 except for spending on the four-river project.

The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party, however, failed to reach a final agreement over the size of the proposed welfare budget and that for the river project.

Unless both sides reach an agreement before noon today, the ruling party might push ahead with the budget bill based on the interim agreement. It said it will pass the budget bill before year’s end.

Ruling party lawmaker Kim Gwang-lim told a news conference yesterday afternoon that the two parties concluded the “two track” negotiations, adding that the talks “neither reached an agreement nor collapsed.”

The two parties agreed that the administration’s 2010 budget will reach 293 trillion won (251.9 billion U.S. dollars), up by more than a trillion won (860 million dollars) as proposed by the government.

The national debt issue intended for a budget deficit was reduced around one trillion won from 30.9 trillion won (25.9 billion dollars), while the size of the fiscal deficit will be cut to 2.6 to 2.7 percent, down from 2.9 percent proposed by the administration.

Lee Kang-rae, floor leader of the Democratic Party, told reporters of a “thin ray of hope” remaining over whether the ruling party will accept a proposed cut of 1.45 trillion won (1.2 billion dollars) cut in the general budget excluding that for the four-river project.

On labor law, the parliamentary committee on labor and the environment passed a revised bill on unions and labor relations. Under the bill, the government will allow multiple unions at a single workplace from July 2011 and ban employers from paying wages to full-time unionists from July next year.

Committee Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae, who is a Democratic Party member, had the door to the committee’s conference room locked because her party’s lawmakers tried to block deliberation of the bill. They protested the move, saying the bill was railroaded without going through the proper procedure.

Whether the bill will take effect Friday as planned is uncertain, however. Both the chairman of the parliamentary panel on legislation, Yoo Sun-ho, and National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o have pledged not to introduce the bill in the main session.

The parliamentary standoff continued yesterday. Kim held a silent protest and protected his seat for the second day from lawmakers trying to occupy it.

Democratic Party legislators occupied the budget committee’s conference room for the 14th straight day. A group of university students also held their third day of protest against tuition hikes.

srkim@donga.com needjung@donga.com