[Outlook]Budget basics

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[Outlook]Budget basics

It is very likely that deliberations on the national budget in the National Assembly will not be finished before the date that it is due by law to the election campaign. According to the Constitution, the National Assembly must approve a state budget before Dec. 2, 30 days before the next fiscal year begins so that public agencies will have no problems when they plan their budgets for the new year and begin next year’s work.
But the National Assembly has failed to meet the deadline for debating and deciding the budget for many years in a row. Since 1990, the budget was handled within the deadline only five times. In the past four years, the state budget was passed once on Dec. 30 and 31 another time.
In 1992, 1997 and 2002, the task was completed within the deadline. Those were the years when presidential elections were held, so politicians wrapped up the National Assembly’s regular session in order to focus their energy on the election. In 1994 and 1995, the National Assembly managed to pass a national budget at the last minute before deadline. Some worry that it has become customary for the National Assembly to delay the passage of the budget.
Deliberating and passing the budget is a primary duty of the National Assembly. If the Assembly puts the duty aside due to political battles and does not handle it within the deadline, that is a serious case of negligence of duty. The people will be the victims.
It has been reported that a political party even suggests that representatives review the budget and confirm it after the presidential election. It is regrettable that those who are supposed to protect the law are suggesting an idea that violates the Constitution.
When the National Assembly delays setting a budget, it becomes difficult for ministries, local governments and public agencies to plan their own. This cuts down on the planning time those bodies have for financial planning, which causes waste that will be passed on to the people.
Thus, the issue of deciding a state budget must be dealt with separately from political conflicts.
Some maintain that the period to confirm a state budget is too short, but that argument is not very persuasive. Since the bill for the national budget was submitted on Oct. 1, there have been many chances to look into it.
For instance, the National Assembly could ask the government questions and each standing committee could look into each government project. Then the budget committee could examine the evaluations of the standing committees in accordance with standards on how a budget must be spent and distribute funding fairly.
Then it would be possible to meet the deadline set by the Constitution. In the past, the deadlines were met many times.
The five years to come will likely bring us serious challenges. As globalization accelerates, countries will compete more fiercely to survive.
As the birth rate goes down and the country ages, demand for welfare services will increase, and this will be only one of many other problems in society.
Under these circumstances, it is important to successfully complete the policies that have been pushed for and to properly prepare for tasks that must be done in the future.
For that, the National Assembly must confirm the budget for next year and prepare concrete plans.
Considering that some 30 days are needed to prepare for the job, the National Assembly will have a tight schedule to meet the deadline. If the budget confirmation is delayed for political reasons, the burdens caused from the delay will be passed on to the next administration and our economy.
We know who the main contenders in the presidential race are. If they take a lead in following the rules in the Constitution, the people will be relieved to see that law and order will be respected in our society no matter who becomes the president.
The deadline to pass the state budget bill is five days away.
There is still enough time. National Assembly members must do their best to meet the deadline. They must stop political infighting and examine the budget carefully.
They must remember that the media and civic groups have continuously criticized lawmakers for not meeting the deadline due to politics.
Both ruling and opposition party members must know that the people do not want them to delay the bill. Lawmakers must stop linking the budget bill to political issues and instead must fulfill their primary duties and allow healthy debate on political issues.
They must take a leading role in establishing an advanced political culture.

*The writer is a professor of public administration at Keimyung University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yoon Young-jin
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