Gov’t outlines Chuseok cost-containment plan

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Gov’t outlines Chuseok cost-containment plan

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The government named 31 agricultural and everyday products and services that will be under close scrutiny through Sept. 17 in order to help ease burdens on the working class in their preparations for Chuseok, the nation’s biggest holiday.

At a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won at the Seoul government complex yesterday, related ministries including the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, confirmed a handful of measures to help people enjoy a better national holiday.

Although the Finance Ministry said consumer prices are efficiently kept in check by the government, it worries about possible price spikes of some agricultural products due to the severe heat wave and torrential summer rains.

“Even though the economy has recovered from zero percent growth, working-class people are still having a tough time since the private sector hasn’t fully recovered yet,” said a Finance Ministry official. “The Chuseok holiday, when people tend to spend more than usual, would be burdensome for some people.”

Year-on-year growth of consumer prices remained in the 1 percent range for the 10th consecutive month in August, according to Statistics Korea. But overall food prices were up 2.6 percent from last year and 6.9 percent month-on-month. Vegetable prices surged 18.4 percent from July to August, and fruit was up 4.1 percent.

The government yesterday identified 31 items including 15 agricultural products, six services and 10 daily necessities for extra scrutiny in the lead-up to Chuseok.

Apples, Asian pears, dates, radishes, cabbage, beef, pork, eggs, chicken, croaker, cutlass fish, pollack, mackerel and squid are the most common foods used in traditional ancestral memorial services.

The government will release an additional 8,000 tons of those fruits and 4,000 tons of seafood.

The government put jjimjilbang fees on the list, too, because many Koreans enjoy going to the public bathhouses when family members get together on special occasions.

It will set up 2,522 stores nationwide to handle direct transactions between farmers and consumers. At those temporary stores, the products will be 10 percent to 30 percent cheaper than regular retail prices.

The government will also announce the cost differences between traditional markets and large retailers run by conglomerates tomorrow to promote outdoor markets.

The financial authority will earmark a total of 16.6 trillion won ($15.1 billion) for loans to small businesses.

According to a survey by the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business (Kbiz), about 44 percent of 631 small enterprises say they feel a financial crunch as Chuseok nears.

One of main reasons is falling sales, the companies said. Some cited delayed payments by clients and spikes in commodity prices.

The average small business will need 259 million won before the holiday, the survey found. But most of the companies said they are only able to finance about 175 million won.

“It is difficult for small companies to secure cash now due to adverse conditions in the domestic market,” a Kbiz official said.?



BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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