Government extravagance

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Government extravagance

Seongnam, a satellite city in Gyeonggi Province, has really crossed the line with its spendthrift extravaganza. It had spent more than 300 billion won ($258.9 million) to build a posh new city hall and then squandered nearly 300 million won on a lavish opening ceremony. Singers and comedians were invited to promote the event that ended with a 20 million won fireworks show.

When the city opened its new grandiose building complex designed by an American architectural group, we pointed out that a city’s reputation and caliber is not won by spectacular architecture, but from the assurance among residents that their taxes are put to good use to improve their living standards.

We could not understand why the city had to push ahead with the construction despite opposition from a number of local legislators and disapproval from the public. Yet we had hoped for exemplary city administration befitting its magnificent dwelling.

But the city continued to take liberties with its tax coffers, spending lavishly on a simple opening ceremony. The ceremony merely served to feed the self-indulgence of Mayor Lee Dae-yub, who no longer can run in gubernatorial elections after his third term ends.

The city boasted that more than 8,000 citizens enjoyed the ceremony. But if it looked more closely, it would have noticed that many furrowed their brows at the sight of the extravagance and turned away. Few stuck around to see the climactic fireworks.

The spacious stealth-like municipal building on 250 acres of land lacks public facilities like an arts or health center, and yet has a luxurious office for the mayor attached to an exclusive elevator. The city’s slogan - the best city brimming with dreams and happiness - appears to exist primarily for the local government officials. Mayor Lee had said the new municipal building was planned with farsightedness to serve the people for generations to come. But how could it serve the future generation when it fails to engage present residents?

The Seongnam city hall symbolizes the arrogance of self-important public servants and should send a strong message to voters in the city and other areas.

Some 40 other local governments are planning to rebuild municipal buildings. Of them, 22 have already issued bonds worth 320 billion to raise funds. Voters should remember that the debt payment will have to come from their own pockets.

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