Presidential candidates from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) are trying to win voters with big money pledges. As DP candidate Lee Jae-myung and PPP candidate Yoon Suk-yeol are busy making promises of trillions of won to tens of trillions of won tailored to different classes, professions and regions, the cost required for implementing those promises is rising quickly that they cannot be estimated.
The basic income pledge proposed by Lee Jae-myung provides a basic income of up to 1 million won a year to the youth, residents of farming and fishing areas, and those in the cultural art industry. Considering the population of the age group and the number of workers in the industry, it costs 14.2 trillion won for the youth, 10.1 trillion won for those in farming and fishing areas, and 2.1 trillion won for those in the cultural art industry. The universal basic income, which requires more than 100 trillion won over five years, is still in progress.
Yoon Suk-yeol’s pledge to provide 50 trillion won to the self-employed and small business owners within his first 100 days in office is not so different from Lee’s pledges. It costs 50 trillion won for COVID-19 reconstruction fund, another 50 trillion won for monthly rent fee sharing system for the self-employed, trillions of won to tens of trillions of won to raise the basic pension for the elderly, 4.8 trillion won to raise the monthly salary of soldiers to 2 million won, 2.5 trillion won for doubling agriculture direct payment, and 2 trillion won to pay salaries to parents with infants and toddlers.
The cost required to implement big money pledges of the presidential candidates has increased to 200 trillion won, one-third of this year’s main budget of 604.4 trillion won. On top of that, taking into account Lee’s pledge to supply 1 million basic housing units, Yoon’s pledge to supply 300,000 housing units for the youth at cost, and both candidates’ pledges to invest in social overhead capital, such as building and extending GTX lines and undergrounding some sections of railways and highways, injecting half of this year’s budget in fulfilling these promises will not be enough.
The election camps of the two candidates are failing to present the total cost required for the pledges and how to raise funds as the two candidates are repetitively raising the ante in making election pledges. No matter who wins the presidential election, the pledges are bound to end up being empty promises and the winner will have to apologize to the people for failing to deliver election pledges. This is why we need a national system to verify the cost and feasibility of generous election promises. Until then, people have no choice but to analyze the candidates’ populist pledges and judge them by votes.