Abandoned Public Funds

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Abandoned Public Funds

According to the "Current State and Evaluation of 62 Public Funds" disclosed by the Ministry of Planning and Budget (MPB) yesterday, things are in an utterly lamentable state. It is shocking to see how inefficiently public funds were created and allotted and how unprofessionally and irresponsibly they have been managed. It is even harder to understand what supervisory offices have been doing for the past 40 years. Not once were the funds of 197 trillion won ($176 billion) subject to a comprehensive review-although they exceed this year's national budget.

Funds classified as "miscellaneous," currently amounting to 78 trillion won ($70 billion), were not required to have a report submitted to the National Assembly. Therefore, the inclination of each ministry has been to grab these funds without consideration in terms of how to best use them. As a result, some of the raised funds just sat in the bank, others were invested in hotels resulting in huge losses, and still others were used for irrelevant projects like adult education. Having no professional personnel to manage the large amount of taxpayers' money wasn't the only mistake committed by the ministries, but many funds lacked a written management policy as well. Would this have occurred if the government respected the taxpayers?

The public ultimately shoulders the burden of public funds and the wellbeing of the state of the economy depends on how well they are managed. The government should rise to the occassion and revamp the entire system.

That is, it is paramount that restructuring take place: The functions and efficiency of all funds should be reexamined to see which of them should be incorporated with others or eliminated altogether. More urgent, the transparency in the process of making decisions on the projects to be funded must be enhanced. Then, strict evaluations of investment results must be conducted on a regular basis. In order to raise professionalism, outside experts should be invited and their advice heeded. Another serious matter to consider is; trillions of won have been invested in financial products that will be excluded from deposit protection starting next year. The government should move forward quickly to come up with measures to avoid losses without wreaking havoc in the banking sector. Finally, the ministries have to avoid acting as independent entities and must have all their projects require the approval of the national Assembly.

by Kim Kyo-joon

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