[EDITORIALS]Frenzied Spending Is Inefficient

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[EDITORIALS]Frenzied Spending Is Inefficient

The Ministry of Planning and Budget has been appealing to other government ministries, state-run funds and corporations for four months to spend their budgets as quickly as possible.

It is nothing new for the administration to stress earlier-than-scheduled budget spending. Late last year, when the government drew up its economic management plans for 2001, it foresaw that the domestic economy would slow down this year. So the government announced a plan to spend 60 percent of its budget within the first six months of this year in a bid to boost the economy.

Nevertheless, it used only about 40 percent during the first half, according to the Budget Ministry. As the economy cooled down even faster than expected in the second half, the government formed a task force in July to encourage ministries to step up spending.

The results have not lived up to our expectations yet. As of the end of last month, the government had expended 96.2 trillion won ($74.1 billion), or 76.9 percent of the planned expenditures for this year. In other words, the government has to spend 29 trillion won, nearly a quarter of its total annual budget, in the final two months of the year. The government is about a month behind a normal spending schedule. If the supplementary budget is included, the percentage of the budget spent would be far lower; regional governments have 22 trillion won to spend for various projects.

Different ministries have different reasons for the delayed expenditures, and regardless of the reasons, the way the Ministry of Planning and Budget presses other ministries to spend money is a problem. But the ministry has a point in that government agencies behave differently when they ask for money and when they spend it, while repeatedly digging up perfectly good roads in an attempt to spend money at yearend. The budget authorities and the National Assembly should strengthen their oversight role in spending efficiently rather than just allocating funds.

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