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Seoul`s free childcare issue on the drift

Posted September. 03, 2013 05:47,   


Twenty one out of Seoul’s 25 districts will see free childcare budget exhausted from this month as those in trouble have high possibility of not being able to provide childcare fees to households having babies aged 0-4 and nurseries. Seocho, Gangnam, Jongno and Jung districts can draw up supplementary budget to provide necessary money, but the coffers will bottom up in one or two months.

Having failed to keep promise to the public, the central government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government are busy blaming each other. The government says it will give Seoul city 135.5 billion won (123 U.S. million dollars) support money that passed the parliament late last year if Seoul sets up 230 billion won (209 million dollars) of supplementary budget. In response, Seoul is demanding that the central government provide it with financial support without condition saying it can`t draw up additional budget since this year`s tax revenue has been reduced by 750 billion won (683 million dollars) in the wake of economic downturn.

Free childcare issue is becoming a rift among political parties ahead of the regional election in April next year. Choi Gyeong-hwan, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said Monday, "North Gyeongsang and South Jeolla provinces with fiscal independence of 30 percent have set up supplementary budget and are promoting free childcare smoothly," adding, "Seoul that ranks No. 1 in fiscal independence is on the brink of childcare chaos due to Mayor Park Won-soon`s greed." Seoul put up a placard on buses and subways, "President! Please keep your promise of free childcare." Seoul city is urging the government to increase necessary subsidy in that President Park Geun-hye had said the central government should be responsible for unit projects like childcare.

The number of those eligible for free childcare has sharply increased this year. Until last year, households in the bottom 15-70 percent of income class had received childcare benefits and fees, which have been expanded to all income classes this year. But ahead of last year’s presidential election, the leading and opposition parties cooperated each other to pass this bill, resulting in the increase of beneficiaries to 400,000 people from 200,000 in Seoul. The leading party says the Seoul city government did not reflect this in this year`s budget even though it was aware of the passage of the law. In response, Seoul is requesting the passage of the baby care law revision that demands state support to increase to 40 percent from 20 percent. This is a political struggle taking children as hostage. The central government and Seoul city should stop blaming each other and put their heads together to find solutions.