Local gov’ts running low on money to fight FMD

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Local gov’ts running low on money to fight FMD

The ripple effect of the food-and-mouth disease (FMD) pandemic continues, with local governments depleting their emergency reserve funds for disinfection efforts.

As a consequence, local officials are pressing the Blue House and National Assembly to approve extra funds for them to help defer their costs.

Local governments normally use their emergency reserve budget - which accounts for 1 percent of their annual budget - to quickly respond to floods, typhoons and other natural disasters.

Now, though, many local governments are concerned that they’re running out of the emergency reserve budget, given that it’s only February, with 10 months to go in the year.

The Jeungpyeong County Office of North Chungcheong is a case in point.

Kim Ki-ok, a county budget official, said he is being bombarded with urgent requests for emergency funds to fight the spread of FMD.

Of the 1.76 billion won ($1.6 million) reserved for emergencies, the county has already used 500 million for disinfection and will need to spend another 500 million won this month. The county has only 760 million won in reserve for the rest of the year.

Hwacheon County, Gangwon, cut the number of quarantine officials who are dispatched for disinfecting the region. Of the 2.2 billion won emergency reserve budget, Hwacheon County officials said the county has already spent 1.3 billion won.

The South Gyeongsang Provincial Government said it is struggling to meet requests for 13.5 billion won from its 18 cities and counties for disinfection.

“We need to keep some of our emergency reserve budget untouched to prepare for damage from storms and floods in the summer,” said Kim Ju-bung, a livestock quarantine official in South Gyeongsang.

Officials hope Seoul comes through in providing supplemental funds for the struggling counties and cities.

“We have spent too much of our emergency reserve budget,” said Hwang Tae-yeon, a budget official of the Paju city government in Gyeonggi. “Of 5.3 billion won, we’ve spent 3.3 billion won. I’m very anxious about this situation because there’s no specific counter-plan to solve this big problem.”

Added Kim, of North Chungcheong, “If foot and mouth continues in March and if crops are damaged by cold weather like last year we’ll run out of the emergency budget,” Kim said. “When we’re hit by typhoons, the federal government pays for the damage by designating us a special disaster area. Foot and mouth disease is a national disaster and the government should take responsibility for this, too.”

By Shin Jin-ho, Yu Kil-yong [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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