MB’s brother diverted budget: DP
In an attempt to fuel public anger over the railroading of next year’s budget by the ruling party and the administration, the Democratic Party yesterday released a list of slashed welfare programs, blaming President Lee Myung-bak’s elder brother for the cuts.
Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu held a press conference yesterday as he concluded a 100-hour sit-in at Seoul Plaza and condemned the president and his brother, GNP Representative Lee Sang-deuk, for running riot with “their self-righteousness and greed.”
The Democrats argue that budget items linked to people’s livelihood had been cut at the last minute in the budget process, while Pohang, the region represented by the president’s brother, enjoyed an unfair allocation of budget funds.
“I have added up all the budget items for the president’s brother, and it was 366.5 billion won [$321.3 million], up 144.9 billion won from the initial government budget plan,” the Democratic Party’s chief policy maker Jun Byung-hun said yesterday.
“President Lee and his elder brother had no intention to respect laws and procedures from the beginning,” Sohn said, urging the president to persuade his elder brother to retire in order to restore public faith in the government.
DP floor leader Park Jie-won also demanded the retirement of Representative Lee, 75, a six-term lawmaker. “The only way to resolve the situation is the resignation of the presidential brother from his lawmaker post,” Park said yesterday at a party meeting. “If he continues to play the role of the godfather at the National Assembly, it’s hard to uphold democracy.”
Representative Lee reacted emotionally yesterday. “I’ve heard the same argument last year and the year before,” he said. “What am I supposed to do? Do the math and calculate Pohang’s budget for road construction. It’s less than five percent of the total. What am I supposed to do?”
The Grand Nationals approved next year’s 309.567 trillion won ($270.72 billion) budget last Wednesday after a lengthy and violent brawl with opposition lawmakers. Criticism quickly rose that the ruling party and administration changed the budget in the final stages to support budget items they cared about, while cutting funds for welfare programs.
The Democratic Party has launched a nationwide campaign to restore what they called the “lost livelihood budgets.” In a press release yesterday, the DP claimed that 2.88 trillion won of livelihood budgets were cut when the Grand Nationals pushed through the budget bill. “At the order of the Blue House, the Grand National Party railroaded the 2011 budget bill for the sake of the four-rivers restoration project and some political heavyweights,” the party said. “And the low-income class, elderly, children, disabled, farmers and fishermen are suffering enormous damage from it.”
According to the Democrats, 142 billion won earmarked for 18 welfare programs for children and youth were slashed. That includes 5.9 billion won cut from a vaccination subsidy for infants and children, the party said.
“Despite our request, no money was allocated next year for free school meals for children from poor families,” the DP said. “This year, 28.3 billion won was spent for the project, but no budget was allocated for next year.”
The DP said eight programs for youth and university students, including a scholarship for low-income families and an internship program at public offices, suffered cuts of 394 billion won. Budgets for nine welfare programs for the elderly were cut by 12 billion won, the DP said.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]