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Moon should directly resolve supplementary budget issue

Posted February. 09, 2022 08:00,   

Updated February. 09, 2022 08:00


The ruling and opposition parties are arguing over how much to increase a supplementary budget. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is calling for a 35 trillion won increase for the budget of 14 trillion won proposed by the government in January while the main opposition People Power Party says a 50 trillion won increase is necessary. At a preliminary examination of the National Assembly’s standing committee on Monday, a 40 trillion won increase was agreed on. While Hong Nam-ki, the ex officio Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy and Finance, said a 35 trillion or 50 trillion won increase is not acceptable at a Tuesday meeting of the Special Committee on Budget & Accounts, he faced strong opposition.

This would be the 10th supplementary budget under the current government and the seventh since the pandemic began. It is also setting a record for supplementary budgeting right before an election for three years in a row. Supplementary budgeting in January when a new fiscal year starts is the first time in 71 years since 1951 during the Korean War. Even considering exceptional conditions from the extended pandemic, a supplementary budget may not have been planned and the parties would not be competing for a large amount of increase without the presidential election on March 9.

“A reasonable alternative to address blind spots, etc. will be thoroughly reviewed during the National Assembly’s deliberation,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday in a confusing situation where the opinions of the ruling and opposition parties and the government are mixed in. He also emphasized that swift support is vital, calling for the National Assembly’s cooperation. He failed to say a word on the parties’ demand for a huge increase in the budget size and only delivered two ambiguous messages – a reasonable alternative and a swift process.

It is not much different from the president’s attitude when there was a controversy about damage compensation for small business owners ahead of by-elections for the mayors of Seoul and Busan on April 7 last year. At the time, President Moon mentioned only once that a measure to systemize damage compensation should be developed within the scope that can be afforded financially. He has not directly come out and addressed issues regarding supplementary budgets since the beginning of COVI-19.

It is rather absurd that the parties are competitively calling for 10s of trillion won increases while there is a lot of criticism for a supplementary budget in January to begin with, so much so that even Prime Minister Kim Bu-gyeom who agreed with some increase said such amount of money cannot be easily obtained. While it is urgent to provide support to small business owners affected by the government’s disease control guidelines, it should be within the limit of what can be afforded.

It is abnormal that the presidential candidate and members of the ruling party are pressuring and criticizing Deputy Prime Minister Hong by saying that he is abusing his authority and denying representative democracy and using strong language, such as a "corrupt official” and “disdaining the livelihood of the public.” President Moon should directly handle the issue unless he wishes to leave the office, emptying the national finance.