[EDITORIALS]Welfare or a pork barrel?Something has gone seriously wrong. Social welfare agencies tasked with helping the poor and getting them jobs have been diverting money to pay their employees and to run their centers.
The Board of Audit and Inspection announced in its analysis of 209 agencies from 2001 to 2003, that they spent more on their operations than on aiding the poor. Ten agencies were found to have created none of the self-help communities required by the law at all. Such communities are supposed to assist the poor in opening their own businesses or expanding profitable businesses.
The numbers are telling: Some agencies that received over 300 million won ($257,000) from the government annually spent the money on themselves, rather than on their ostensible purpose. The central and local government offices responsible for oversight seem to have been asleep at the wheel.
Our economy has reached a point where the poor are increasing, while jobs are decreasing. To ease this situation, self-help community projects were set up in 2000. The funding for such projects comes not only from the taxpayer, but also, in the form of contributions, from religious groups, social welfare groups, universities and other nonprofit organizations. These types of projects require thorough oversight and guidance, as well as close cooperation between the government and the private sector to ensure that waste does not occur.
If social welfare budgets are wasted like this, the projects they are designed to fund will fail and the economy will grow ever more sluggish as taxpayers are asked to dole out ever more. In other words, a “social welfare disease” will set in. Thus, the core determinant of the success of welfare projects must be how efficiently the funds to support them are used and distributed. We have to come up with a system that ensures that the money is effectively channeled to those who really need it.
Of course, we acknowledge that not all agencies are open to criticism: The officials who run some agencies have, indeed, made efforts to slash inefficiencies. However, such incidents seem to be limited to a minority of offices. The practice of paying employees and running operations with the money originally meant to assist the poor must be halted.
Let us be clear: Slimming down the agencies to eliminate inefficiencies is the key to solving this problem.