Unconscionable budget increases

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Unconscionable budget increases

While the entire nation is transfixed by the ever-deepening schism over the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are keen to fatten up next year’s budget. Thanks to massive increases in welfare spending, including pensions for senior citizens, regional development programs and subsidies for farmers, the budget has already increased by a whopping 11.5 trillion won ($10.1 billion) from the original 326 trillion won. If representatives resort to their signature pork-barrel tactics at the Budget Adjustment Subcommittee, the figure will surely soar even higher.

The unfettered increase in the state budget explicitly shows just how far our lawmakers have gone. Defying their original mission to cut the unnecessary fat from the executive branch’s budget proposal amid the economic slowdown spurred by the financial crisis in southern Europe, our lawmakers are waging a war to increase the budgets in the standing committees to which they belong. Some representatives have even rushed to increase the budget in anticipation of deeper cuts by the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.

A bigger problem, however, is the indiscreet tendency among representatives to prioritize their own re-elections over effective checks on government spending by turning a blind eye to overall fiscal health. The Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs Committee, for instance, has boosted its budget by 4.85 trillion won, which is a big departure from the moment when they lambasted the Lee Myung-bak administration for being a “civil engineering regime.”

In the Budget Adjustment Subcommittee room, lawmakers are busy increasing the budget outlays to their own districts. We are utterly disappointed at their despicable double standard as they are only engrossed in securing money for their own constituencies while feigning concern about the national economy.

The opposition parties sharply criticized a budget increase made under the Lee administration for a regional development project in North Gyeongsang by saying the president was engaging in “nepotism for his brother.”

But members of the opposition parties are no different. They, too, tried to secure enough funds for their re-election, no matter how harsh the criticism was at the moment. If citizens vote for them just because they contributed to development in their regions, this will likely empty out the government coffers. To avoid this problem, voters should have the wisdom to differentiate national interests from regional ones.

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