City budget is proposed amid school lunch spat

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City budget is proposed amid school lunch spat

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon yesterday announced a budget of 21 trillion won ($18.2 billion) for Seoul next year amid a widening rift between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Metropolitan Council over the budget plan.

“Investment that shapes the future of Seoul must continue without being halted,” Oh said in a press conference yesterday. “I have centered my efforts in the last four years on raising Seoul’s urban competitiveness and Seoul has ranked one of the top 10 cities in urban competitiveness. To make Seoul enter the top five global cities’ list, Seoul needs investment that can guarantee durable growth.”

However, it’s unclear whether Oh’s budget plan will be passed without getting a good look by the Seoul Metropolitan Council.

While DP council members want Oh to include 700 million won as part of next year’s budget to provide free school lunches for public elementary schools next year, Oh is adamantly against the idea.

While Oh, backed by the Grand National Party, believes Seoul doesn’t need to pay lunch fees for children from the upper classes, the DP is aiming to cut some of Oh’s key projects, arguing that limiting benefits to just poor students would stigmatize students who receive free meals.

The DP controlled council passed a free-school-lunch bill on Dec. 1 after engaging in intense scuffles with GNP lawmakers, who protested the vote.

In response to the DP’s passage of the bill, Oh demanded the DP retract the bill.

On Monday, Oh formally asked the council to review the free-school-lunch bill again - the review will take place on Dec. 29. The budget committee, under the council, will start reviewing budget bills today and will put them to a vote on Dec. 29.

Yesterday, Oh said the top-five priority projects under his mayorship will include the Han River Arts Island - building a landmark opera house and other culture facilities on Nodeul Island in the Han River - as well as a domed stadium in the southwest of Seoul and a seniors town to assist an aging society.

But bills to support these projects were rejected again at the council on Monday and Oh yesterday expressed regret over the issue.

“The council again rejected bills supporting the projects and that sets back the living quality in Seoul,” Oh said.

By Kim Mi-ju []
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