Responsible welfare policies

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Responsible welfare policies

The government’s welfare spending is out of control. Various social benefits that should have gone to the needy and underprivileged have instead ended up in the wrong hands. Presidential hopefuls are advised to re-examine their ambitious welfare platforms. According to the Board of Audit and Inspection, administrators in central and local governments have been squandering their welfare budgets.

Fifty-two cities, districts and counties handed out around 300 million won ($279,000) to 80 people who possess unlisted shares worth more than 100 million won by including them as beneficiaries qualified to receive monthly allowances for basic needs. About 2.1 billion won was also paid in the form of living subsidies to 464 people who did not need them. Some 9.5 billion won worth of public health care funds was misspent. The loopholes are glaring in various welfare services, including social work fees, disability allowances, nursing home wages and discounts in railway services for the disabled. Serious defects were discovered in the system of administrators allocating and distributing such funds to beneficiaries.

Various new welfare programs and benefits promised by presidential candidates Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party could fall prey to misappropriation and squandering. The two differ in coining their welfare programs as “tailored” or “universal,” but in the details of the policies they are more or less the same, as both are essentially offering major cuts to college tuition and free child care.

The ruling party’s welfare programs are estimated to require a budget of 131 trillion won over the next five years, while the DUP’s would require 192 trillion won. Park plans to raise the funds through a new tax system, while Moon similarly aims to readjust income tax margins and increase the maximum rate of corporate taxes. Whether the funds could be successfully raised by the two candidates’ proposals has been in question, but now whether they can be well spent is equally doubtful. Candidates should be able to present ways to improve the system of distributing welfare benefits.

There is no doubt that how social welfare benefits reach beneficiaries is a vital part of the policy. The system could be abused by free-riders without the government’s close surveillance. We will never be able to build a welfare state with the mind-set that anything the nation provides should be free. Welfare systems can be intact only when everyone in charge sees policies responsibly.

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