DP launches a panel to verify free welfare offers

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DP launches a panel to verify free welfare offers

A group of technocrats-turned-lawmakers of the Democratic Party will launch a panel next month to verify the feasibility of the party’s pledges of broader welfare benefits.

Aimed at winning votes in next year’s legislative and presidential elections, the Democratic Party leadership has presented a series of expanded - and expensive - welfare programs ranging from free school lunches to free medical care for all. Pledges of free child care and half-priced tuition have also been made.

Representative Kim Hyo-seuk, a three-term lawmaker who used to be a business management professor, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that more and more members of the DP admit the need to verify the feasibility of the pledges.

“About 20 lawmakers have reached a consensus to check on the feasibility of the leadership’s plans,” said Kim. “We will launch a panel right after the Lunar New Year holidays.” This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 3.

Kim made it clear that the group’s plan to scrutinize the pledges is intended for the party’s benefit. “More than two years are left before the presidential election. Unless we prepare welfare policies thoroughly and meticulously, our pledges may backfire,” he said.

Others who will join the group include representative Kang Bong-kyun, who was finance and economy minister in the Kim Dae-jung administration; representative Choi In-kee, former agriculture and fisheries minister; and representative Byun Jae-ill, former vice minister of information and communications.

“We have not completed the blueprint for our universal welfare program, and yet unexpected pledges were made sporadically, baffling me,” said Byun. “Unless we have a thorough verification, it’s hard to avoid the criticism that our idea is welfare populism.”

The Grand National Party has attacked the Democratic Party for its lack of a plan to finance the pledges. The GNP said yesterday that the free medical care would cost 30 trillion won annually, the free lunch plan 1.7 trillion won and free child care 6.8 trillion won. The half-price tuition program would cost about 4.9 trillion won, the GNP said, adding that the estimate for the free health care was made conservatively.

By Kang Ki-heon, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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