Thirty-two lawmakers of the Democratic Party of Korea proposed a revised bill on Wednesday to make the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts a standing committee. The bill, proposed by Rep. Maeng Seong-gyu, envisions to make the committee permanent and ban its members from holding multiple positions across other committees. The bill also seeks to have the Ministry of Economy and Finance make a report on the total amount of finance and expenditure limits, and let the assessment results of the committee be discussed in the presidential meeting on national fiscal strategy.
The opposition party intends to leave a way open for the National Assembly to be involved in the government’s budget decisions right from the planning stage. The proposed act also empowers the Special Committee to conduct a final screening and adjustment of the increase and decrease in the budgets requested by the committees.
“The National Assembly is actually a mere stooge in the budget examination. We want to give it a practical role to assess the budget,” said Rep. Maeng. In fact, this could be interpreted in a different way. Every year, there were criticisms over the budget examination conducted in haste and secretly. There is no reason to go against a call for a more meticulous assessment of the budget that amounts to 600 trillion won.
The problem is, however, a self-contradictory messaging of the Democratic Party. As the opposition party in the past, it had kept calling for the permanent Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, but as a leading party under the Moon Jae-in administration, it didn’t even say a word about the issue for five years. It used up the country’s budget, saying, “Why would we have crops piled up in our barn?” Now, as the opposition party again, it is taking out the card to make the Committee a standing body, showing double standards. It can only be interpreted as a trick to have the new administration’s key policies at its feet with the control over the budget.
It is the National Assembly’s responsibility to thoroughly assess the government’s budget but intervening in its budgeting can cause controversy for going against the constitution. According to Article 54 of the Constitution, the National Assembly has the right to consider and decide the budget bill, and the government has the right to formulate and submit the budget. The National Assembly’s behaviors so far clearly show a high likelihood of the government’s budget use being swayed by politics. There are growing concerns over the power-packed Special Committee becoming another standing committee of the Upper House.
Above all, the bill is about reshaping the entire operational framework of the National Assembly. The Finance Ministry provided a reason by underestimating tax revenues but making the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts a permanent body and giving it broader power requires in-depth discussions and a bipartisan consensus. After the defeat in the presidential election, the Democratic Party rushed with a legislative push to strip prosecutors of their ability to conduct investigations and to control the administration’s enforcement ordinance, and now it is coming up with a bill to hold the budget in check. These proposals show the party’s intention to keep the administration under the main opposition party’s control. It is even ill-timed to call for the standing committee on budget when the National Assembly is closed due to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee chairman issue.