Failed budget bill troubles Seongnam

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Failed budget bill troubles Seongnam

As a local government in Gyeonggi failed to pass the 2013 budget bill, several projects that require billions of won in funding have been delayed, including welfare plans for the unemployed, disappointing residents. This is the first instance of a city council failing to pass a yearly budget.

On New Year’s Eve, the Seongnam City Council held a plenary session on the city’s yearly budget, but failed to pass the bill before midnight as council members from the ruling Saenuri Party who make up 18 of 34 seats in the city council refused to attend the session.

The ruling party council members have been protesting a plan to establish the Seongnam Urban Innovation Corporation, a city government-run construction company that Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung from the opposition Democratic United Party carried out.

Mayor Lee is saying that establishing its own construction corporation is necessary for their planned large-scale construction projects, including creating an apartment complex in Wirye Newtown, which is to be completed in 2014 with over 400,000 apartments.

The council members say it would cause too large of a financial burden.

The city government began operating with a provisional budget. Under the provisional budget, they are only allowed to spend the minimum amount necessary to manage the city.

Due to the circumstances, the city government was forced to postpone the welfare programs that aren’t covered by the provisional budget.

The city government planned to invest 5.7 billion won ($5.4 million) a year in jobs for its 74,000 unemployed residents for the next three years and 893 selected residents were supposed to start working after signing a contract yesterday, but they officially declared that they will postpone the project.

The city government explained that it is unreasonable to sign a contract with workers without funding. The workers were supposed to work as street cleaners and staff city government-run health care centers.

The city government said 40 percent of the workers are older than 62 without regular income and most currently live alone or raise grandchildren.

Workers younger than 65 were expected to earn about an average of 730,000 won in regular income per month if the plan was implemented, while workers older than 65 were expected to earn 410,000 won a month.

“I received a text message from the city government that notified the delay of the program,” Park Soo-young, a 49-year-old street cleaner said. “I barely survive with ramen. I have no idea how I should make enough to live.”

The city government also canceled its job training program that was provided to local university students.

It was supposed to offer an opportunity to learn how administration works at the city government and its affiliated organizations with pay of 19,200 won per day from Jan. 5 to Feb. 26.

The program was extremely popular with students who considered it a chance for them to earn extra money for school tuition while having a high-quality work experience. A total of 460 students applied to the program though they only recruited 200.

In addition, 25.4 billion won that was apportioned for the city’s free lunch program and 41 billion won in subsidies for the transportation industry has been delayed.

The city government set a 2.1 trillion won budget for this year and estimated that about 400 to 500 billion won of funding has been delayed.

“The majority group of the city council scuttled the plenary session in order to accomplish their goal,” Soh Jin-gwang, public administration professor at Gacheon University, said.

By Yoo Gil-yong, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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