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Budget committee to publish White Paper to disclose all ‘memo budgets’

Budget committee to publish White Paper to disclose all ‘memo budgets’

Posted November. 29, 2014 03:47,   


As the ruling and main opposition parties agreed on normalizing the National Assembly on Friday, they are set to stage a war to increase budgets for next year in their favor. Members of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, including Chairman Hong Moon-pyo, and secretaries Lee Hak-jae (Saenuri Party) and Lee Choon-seok (New Politics Alliance for Democracy), started review on budget hikes from Friday afternoon. The rival parties are expected to engage in a fierce battle over items to increase budget and the scale of hikes for three days through Sunday, the legal deadline for budgetary review.

○ Amount of increase declines to 1/10th

The amount of increase demanded by the ruling and opposition parties at standing committees in the review process came to a total of 16 trillion won (14.4 billion U.S. dollars). However, the government expressed objection, saying, “A hike of more than 3 trillion won (2.71 billion dollars) is impossible.” Of the 3 trillion won to be hiked, the amount of increase that the rival parties can deal with is about 1.5 trillion won (1.35 billion dollars), which excludes increased budgets concerning core policy projects (about 1 trillion won or 900 million dollars) that are pursued by the government, and the budget to support the Nuri (childrearing subsidy) program, worth about 500 billion won (451 million dollars). After all, the amount of increase has declined to about the 1/10th from the amount demanded at the level of standing committees. As a result, members of the parliamentary committee are reportedly agonizing deeply over how to select and reflect lawmakers’ demands for hikes.

○ Demands for ‘memo budgets’ fail to wield influence

As the amount of increase is tight, demands for hikes through ‘memo budgets’ have not reportedly wielded notable influence at the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts this year. Memo budgets refer to budgets that have been set by reflecting memos that lawmakers sent to chairman, secretaries of the budget committee, or members of its budgetary figure adjustment subcommittee to demand a hike of budgets concerning projects that their constituencies seek to conduct.

The number of memo budgets that Chairman Hong Moon-pyo has personally received alone is said to exceed 200. These memo budgets are reportedly budget items that were not included in budget plans in the process of budgetary review by the standing committees. Hong told a Dong-A Ilbo reporter, “In this year’s budget review, we are not discussing in the review process budget items that have not gone through standing committees,” in describing the mood in the budget committee. Memo budgets demanded by "power elite" such as chairmen and floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties have reportedly hardly emerged at the site of budget review by the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.

○ Committee seeks to publish White Paper on memo budgets

However, in order to single out demands for budget hikes that are deemed viable among the "memo budgets," a measure is being reportedly considered to publish a White Paper at the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts level by disclosing all different memo budgets. A key source at the committee said, “Just because budget items were not discussed at the standing committees, "budget for care" that could reflect the needs of the poor and underprivileged should not be unconditionally criticized,” adding, “We are considering publishing a White Paper as part of efforts to leave open the possibility to include budget items, although not in this year’s review, if they are deemed essential by checking their viability and appropriateness. The measure is meant to leave open the chance to set aside such a budget in supplementary budget or the following year’s budget after discussions at the standing committees, if a budget hike is deemed to be necessary.

As negative sentiment against memo budgets is widespread, ruling and opposition party lawmakers who will conduct budgetary review at the standing committee level demanded in advance a hike for budget items concerning their constituencies. A second-term lawmaker from a constituency in Gyeonggi Province said, “Submitting a memo budget when the standing committees finishes reviewing is an attempt made only by those who lack strategy,” adding, “One will have a higher chance for a budget hike, only when demand for a hike is made well in advance through the due process at standing committees.”