Supplementary bloat

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Supplementary bloat

Lawmakers seem to think that money is falling from the sky in the form of budget supplements. They forget that this money is actually coming from the pockets of taxpayers.

If they thought otherwise, they would not be padding the hurriedly constructed budget supplements coming through the National Assembly with civil projects benefitting their own electorates.

The Assembly committee charged with overseeing the budget bill expanded the supplement by a whopping 5.5 trillion won from the initial amount. This would have been all well and good if the projects were essential to reviving the national economy. The nation’s financial health should be a priority. But there is no rhyme or reason to the list of businesses to which lawmakers have allocated the supplemental funds.

In one of the most egregious examples of wasteful spending, 4.9 billion won was earmarked to transform Uljin Airport into an aviation training center. The airport hasn’t even been officially opened due to the low number of prospective passengers; it is difficult to see the logic behind the move. In the electoral district of Ulleung Island, neither a proposed circumferential road nor a business center to be built there fulfills the purpose of resuscitating the economy.

This supplement is the largest in history. The government initially proposed a total budget of 28.9 trillion won and the Assembly is planning to add another 5.5 trillion won. The result will be higher taxes for Koreans ? not an easy proposition when people are already suffering salary cuts and fears about unemployment.

It’s especially unfortunate to note that there was so little opposition to the supplementary budget bill. Lawmakers don’t seem to care about the damage they are doing to the country’s financial health. The focus was on quelling the financial crisis, even though the national debt rose from 308 trillion won last year to 367 trillion won this year and the ratio of national debt to gross domestic product surged from 30.1 percent to 35.6 percent in the same one-year period.

If lawmakers had even a modicum of understanding of the situation facing the majority of the Korean people, they would not have moved in this direction. Instead, they should have kept a closer watch over the plans submitted by the government and ensured that special interest projects were cut.

The actions of the opposition lawmakers were particularly disturbing. They should have been more faithful to their role as watchdogs. They were the ones who had argued that non-essential items should be kept to a minimum.

It is now up to the Assembly committee to undertake a strict review of the budget supplement before it gets further out of control.
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