[EDITORIALS]A burdensome budget

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[EDITORIALS]A burdensome budget

The budget proposal for fiscal year 2003, laid out by the government on Tuesday, can be considered a kind of an invoice. On average, each person will have to shoulder 3 million won ($2,450) in taxes next year, the government said.

The budget asks the public to pay for the achievements of the current administration. These include overcoming the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, the adoption of the sunshine policy and an expansion of the welfare system.

The government has set next year's budget at 111.7 trillion won, up 1.9 percent from this year when supplementary budgets are included. The government tacitly boasts that its budget is the tightest in a decade. It stresses it will stop issuing government bonds to plug budget deficits, thereby achieving a balanced budget in 2003.

But the austere plan seems to be more the result of smaller-than-expected revenues, rather than the government's making extra efforts to trim expenses.

The public, meanwhile, cannot help but feel the bigger burden. The government estimates that the rate of increase for tax revenues will be 9.9 percent next year, compared with predicted nominal economic growth of 8.5 percent.

In lieu of lowered estimates in revenues from income taxes (a 4.8 percent increase), the government plans to increase revenues from indirect taxes, such as value added taxes (a 10.9 percent increase) and a special excise tax (up 20.2 percent). Instead of direct taxes, which render bigger resistance, the government is concentrating on increases in indirect taxes.

The government said the tax increase was inevitable because it expects no extra revenue this year. But a tax increase that surpasses the growth in individual incomes is not acceptable to the public. The government must think about whether it has earnestly tried to cut expenses such as the money it doles out to local governments or for civil servants' expenses. That review will be the responsibility of the National Assembly. We understand the imminent task for the assemblymen is to worry about the presidential election, just three months away, but we ask them to strive to take care of their voters.
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