Should the budget allocated for the construction of Dongseo Highway from Saemangeum via Jangsu in North Jeolla Province to Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province be considered the budget of the presidents brother?" It should be if the standards of nine projects that the main opposition Democratic Party categorized as budget for the constituency of ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, the elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, is applied to the 2011 budget passed by the ruling party Wednesday. The highways budget, however, is not included on the list of the budget for Lee Sang-deuks constituency. Is this because the western section of the highway (Gunsan) belongs to Kang Bong-kyuns constituency and the middle part (Jangsu) to the Democratic Partys Chung Sye-kyun though the eastern part belongs to Lee Sang-deuk?
The Democratic Party will propose a revised budget plan that includes cutting the budget for the four-river restoration project by more than 2 trillion won (1.7 billion dollars) and request additional budget through nationwide protests. The main opposition partys Kim Woo-nam, Lee Chun-seok and Bang Byeong-wan, however, asked the Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs Ministry to include the cost for construction design (3 billion won or 2.6 million dollars) for the improvement project of the Mangyeong River that runs through Honam field (in the Jeolla provinces) to the four-river projects budget. Other Democratic Party legislators requested an increase of the budget to around 10 billion won (8.7 million dollars) in districts of the Geum River, Miho Stream and the Yeongsan River from the budget for the four-river project. Ironically, the Democratic Party opposes the four-river project while its lawmakers from constituencies near the four rivers ask for more budget. Oh, the hypocrisy!
The ruling party and the government seemed unorganized and showed their incompetence in dealing with the budget. The ruling party railroaded the budget at a parliamentary session for the first time in eight years because it removed an incorrect practice, but drew criticism for failing to check details after listing a number of welfare promises so as not to be outdone by the Democratic Party. The passed budget bill for welfare (86.4 trillion won or 75.5 billion dollars) was up from the governments proposal by 120 billion won (104.9 million dollars). The welfare portion took up the largest amount of government spending with 27.9 percent, a record high. The ruling party, however, failed to explain why it missed other items such as essential vaccinations for infants and children, childcare subsidies for the bottom 70 percent of income earners, and financial support for meals for hungry school children over vacation.
In an unprecedented move, Rep. Lee Sang-deuk increased the budget dramatically and allowed criticism to fester over the budget of the presidents brother. Allocating 5 billion won (4.3 million dollars) for opening Korean restaurants in New York City, which is saturated with such eateries, for the globalization of Korean food shows no consideration of economics.
When the budget for Buddhist temple stays was cut from 18.5 billion won (16.1 million dollars) to 12.2 billion won (10.7 million dollars), no explanation was given. Due to a backlash from the Buddhist community, the ruling party is now making a fuss over how to divert the use of funds. A policy based on greed only while omitting philosophy, principles and methodology cannot gain the confidence of the people.
The ruling party and the government would not have allocated the budget so loosely if the money was theirs. How many of the ruling partys 171 members looked at the budget of 309 trillion won (270 billion dollars) in detail remains to be seen.