It was reported that next year’s budget plan, which the National Assembly managed to pass at the last minute after midnight on Christmas Eve, includes larger or increased allocations to boroughs of which those influential in the ruling and opposition parties are in charge compared to the administration’s proposal. Amid the unprecedented power struggle between the ruling and opposition parties’ lawmakers at the National Assembly, they disgracefully caused the longest delay in passing a budget plan since the enactment of the National Assembly Advancement Act in 2014, which nevertheless did not stop those at the core of power from looking out for number one.
Indeed, there was no clear separation between the ruling and opposition parties regarding how their influential lawmakers were hell-bent on their portion in the budget allocation processes. Not only the heads of the emergency measure committee and the policy committee in the People Power Party, the slogan of which has been a pledge on “austerity measures,” but also leaders close to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol made a considerable increase in an allocated budget amount for their districts from the government’s proposal or created entirely new projects abruptly to secure budget money. Powerful figures in the Democratic Party of Korea also acted in their interests, including its vice floor leader, the head of the policy committee, and the leader as well as the assistant administrator of the National Assembly’s budget committee, who earned a significant amount of budget for their districts by increasing the planned budget or adding new projects with some strings pulled.
Right after the budget plan passed the National Assembly, both the ruling and opposition parties praised the passage of the budget plan as designed for the working class, socially marginalized, and future generations. However, it was only a petty result of their struggle between the so-called “President Yoon-designed” and “Lee Jae-myung-devised” initiatives even after the two deadlines suggested by the speaker of the National Assembly not having been met as well as the closure of the legal deadline and the regular session of the National Assembly. Those at the center of party leadership only tried to secure as much money as possible for their districts to increase their chance of re-election for the next general elections. This only questions whether they are truly qualified and eligible for the brightly glistening badge on the chest of the representatives of the ruling and opposition parties serving the legislative body.
It is no news that those with power randomly wield influence over budget allocation. Even without any shorthand report written on the site, it may be only natural that decision-makers during budget examinations are swayed and affected by pork barrel politics and scheming budget plans proposed in the interests of their own behind the scenes. Added to this, many budget items are included without any schematic design or feasibility analysis of their total business cost carried out, which only causes them to be taken back later on. Such a conventionally ill way of budget examination only hinders national resources from being evenly distributed and causes taxpayers’ money to go down the drain.
Right after the budget plan was processed, some lawmakers were vocal in their contributions to securing the government budget for projects planned in their districts, with all the promotional flyers churned out. Both the ruling and opposition parties are likely to visit their neighborhoods to impress residents with a gigantic budget awaiting them. At the same time, every lawmaker may underline how successfully they have secured a larger budget in their legislative reports. What a regrettable reality it is in politics! This is where civic groups or supervisory committees specially designed by the National Assembly should come into play to stop lawmakers from doing their way and ignoring their intrinsic responsibility of keeping the administration’s fiscal expenditure under control during budget examinations.