[EDITORIALS]Where's the money?

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[EDITORIALS]Where's the money?

The debate continues about funds provided to bail out financial firms during the Asian financial crisis. The government announced an estimate and schedule of repayment in late June, and now the Grand National Party has issued its own analysis. The differences are dizzying.

Most people agree that the amount of funds disbursed so far is 156 trillion won ($133 billion), as of the end of March. Agreement stops there. The differences start with how much of the funds are unrecoverable. The government said 69 trillion won, but the GNP's analysis adds at least 10 trillion won to that figure. The difference in view is even greater on how the funds should be repaid. The government wants to spread the repayment over 25 years, while the GNP said the period should be 15 years. The government plan puts the burden on financial firms through a 0.1 percentage-point increase in deposit insurance premiums; the GNP said banks should pay more from their operating profits and foreign exchange reserves.

The public is understandably frustrated. The government estimates say that the unrecoverable funds plus interest on all the disbursements of funds total 87 trillion won, or 1.9 million won for every Korean. In the face of that amazing statistic, the country's leadership is busy analyzing data and calculating estimates of little substance. The people need to know how much was disbursed and to whom and how much was lost before they will agree to chip in more money.

Before finalizing a repayment schedule, there must be a National Assembly investigation of the funds to give the public a convincing picture of the amount of money lost. Last year's work by the Board of Audit and Inspection stopped at checking the use of the funds, but it is logical to confirm the amount of losses before putting together a repayment plan. The GNP and the Millennium Democratic Party both say they see the need for an Assembly inspection but shy away from setting a schedule. If they are worried about the August by-elections and the presidential vote in December, they are neglecting their duty to protect the taxpayers. Stop the debates and open an investigation.

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