Seoul’s districts want daycare bailout from gov’t

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Seoul’s districts want daycare bailout from gov’t

The chiefs of 25 Seoul districts struggling to provide?additional free daycare programs for children under the age of two urged the central government to support their budgets.

At a press conference held yesterday at City Hall in Jung District, central Seoul, the 25 heads of Seoul’s district offices said their free daycare programs were in danger of suspension due to budget shortages.

“The central government should provide 197.7 billion won ($175.8 million) by the end of the year,” said No Hyeon-song, head of Gangseo District during the conference. “The government and the National Assembly unilaterally passed the bill expanding daycare programs without prior consultation with local governments late last year when the deliberation on the budget for this year was already finished. They have failed to provide solutions for the additional cost and dumped such a huge burden on us.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said there’s a shortfall of about 248 billion won for daycare programs for infants under the age of two after the central government allocated 197.7 billion won to local governments.

The local government chiefs demanded three things from the central government: total support for daycare for infants, more support for daycare for older children and a drastic solution for local governments’ financial woes.

The local governments said they are already in financial troubles and it would be impossible to provide additional budget partly because local tax collections are down due to the slump in real estate in Seoul.

“As the central government has been expanding welfare policies indiscriminately, more than 50 percent of our annual budget is spent on welfare programs,” the district office chiefs told reporters. “Most of the daycare programs being managed by local governments will probably grind to a halt in September or October. The central government needs to act responsibly.”

Previously, the government told local governments to issue bonds to pay for the daycare programs, but local leaders?made it clear?that they don’t like that idea unless the government supports the principal and interests on the bonds.


By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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