중앙데일리

[EDITORIAL] Disappointing Budget Slash

Dec 28,2000
The passing of next year's budget looks like a hoodwinking staged by the ruling party and the opposition. They claim that the slash of 805 billion won out of the government's original proposal of 101.3 trillion won ($81 billion) constitutes the largest cut since 1993. A closer examination, however, reveals a practical increase. Both the ruling party and the opposition made sure that money was appropriated to various projects in Kyongsang and Cholla Provinces, their regional bases. It will be difficult for them to avoid the criticism that the budget deliberation revolved around grabbing the pie of taxpayers' money.

The ruling party and the opposition reduced the budget a total of 2.6 trillion won and increased it 1.8 trillion won. Budget experts point out that a majority of the reduced funds, or 1.8 trillion won ?reserve funds, interest on national debts and interest on financial reform funds ?is likely to be reflected in the mid-year supplementary budget. Except for the net cut of 800 billion won, the entire size of the budget is liable to grow by 1 trillion won.

In fact, working-level officials for the budget deliberation said, "It seems inevitable to appropriate a larger supplementary budget than the reduced amount for reserve funds." These figures notwithstanding, they trumpet their action as a "slash of 800 billion won." Isn't it then a premeditated fraud targeting the general public?

It is unprecedented to cut 800 billion won in reserve for disaster relief. The budget officials of the ruling party and the opposition explain that the government allotted excessive reserve funds in the first place. They add that in case of a natural disaster, such as a wildfire or a flood, the ruling party and the opposition have agreed to immediately deliberate a supplementary budget and therefore no problem is expected in executing the fund promptly.

Given that a supplementary budget was drawn this year for various natural disaster measures, we cannot help but worry if timely and effective disaster measures can be drawn up with the amount greatly shrunk from this year's reserve funds. Although a dramatic increase in infrastructure-related investment is evaluated as a good move in view of next year's economic conditions, all such projects are to take place in Kyongang and Cholla Provinces, which naturally invites criticism that the ruling party and the opposition have colluded.

The deliberation and the vote for the budget are important rights and obligations delegated to the National Assembly by the constitution and the Korean people. The National Assembly has given up on its own function when it neglected this right and even introduced a trick to deceive the general public.

The responsibilities of the leaderships of the ruling party and the opposition are immense, and in particular, the opposition is more to blame. It has been customary for a ruling party to defend the administration that organizes and submits the budget proposal. Lee Hoi-chang, president of the opposition Grand National Party, at first vowed to slash 10 trillion won, then lowered his goal to 8 trillion, to 6 trillion, to 3 trillion, to 1 trillion won and finally agreed on 800 billion won. In this process, no explanation was offered why the goal was lowered so often. The funds for North Korea projects and the budget for the National Intelligence Service, once the targets of the opposition's loud voice, passed without a cent reduced. The GNP should explain and apologize for the fraud drama it has helped stage, and its leadership must take full responsibility.


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