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National Budget Finally Passed

Dec 26,2000
The National Assembly passed Tuesday next year's government budget of 100.22 trillion won ($79 billion) after slashing 805 billion won.

Some critics in the Assembly pointed out that both the ruling and opposition parties failed to get ride of pork-barrel projects in the next year's budget as they watered down reform plans to please all parties.

"Taking even the slightest glimpse, we can see that the budget has been planned on the basis of regionalism and the money has gone where there is power," said Rep. Kim Hong-shin of the opposition Grand National Party.

After weeks of wrangling over the amount of the reduction, the ruling and opposition parties agreed Sunday to cut 800 billion won from the original 101.3 trillion won requested by the government.

"Out of 50 members at the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, 26 members opposed the Saemangeum project, but only 6.1 billion won has been cut," said Rep. Kim Won-woong of the Grand National Party. Saemangeum is a project aimed at reclaiming tidelands in North Cholla Province. It received 113.4 billion won.

Some critics also charged that decisions to cut money in certain areas were made in a hurry.

Representative Kim Yong-kap of the opposition party criticized the amount of the North-South cooperation fund, which amounted to 500 billion won, saying that the opposition party opposed such a large amount of aid to North Korea only "with their lips," but in fact supported it by passing the budget.

This is the first time that the inter-Korean cooperation fund has received the largest amount of the budget. In 1995, it received 240 billion won to provide 150,000 tons of rice to the poverty-stricken North.

With both parties agreeing to slash the budget first and then deciding where to make the reductions, some observers foresaw problems for crucial projects.

by Chun Young-gi




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