Safety spending will be boostedThe government will boost its public safety budget to try to prevent another tragedy like the sinking of the Sewol.
At a second national financial strategy meeting presided over by President Park Geun-hye yesterday, government officials and outside experts agreed that the government should make public safety its top priority.
“Mending the national system for public safety will come first in terms of the budget plan,” Park said at the meeting. “Safety-related affairs will be thoroughly revised.”
The meeting was held before the Ministry of Strategy and Finance writes the budget for next year. It also discussed the fiscal situation for the next four years.
The Finance Ministry said it will expand the budgets for welfare, safety and culture.
In the 2014 budget, the ministry allocated 15.7 trillion won ($15.2 billion), for public order and safety, a 4.6 percent increase from the previous year.
The Ministry of Security and Public Administration, which is in charge of public safety, was allotted 40.3 trillion won in the budget for this year. Of that total, the ministry has put 170 billion won, or 4 percent, into safety-related spending.
During the Lee Myung-bak administration, the name of the ministry was the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, but the Park government decided to emphasize security and safety over administration.
“A system involving details of financial support when disasters occur should be established,” Park said. “Officials should be trained professionally and be able to operate the system correctly in an accident.”
The president said safety spending should primarily be focused on preventing disasters.
On the flip side, the government will cut its budget for infrastructure spending, which was used to stimulate economic growth.
The budget for industries will also decline next year. This year’s budget for industries, small-and-medium enterprises and energy already had a 1.7 percent decrease from the year before.
By 2018, the government aims to contain the national debt to below 35 percent of GDP for the sake of fiscal soundness.
As of late last year, the total debt of the government, including future expenditures such as pension costs, stood at 1,117 trillion won, up from 902 trillion won the previous year, indicating that the country’s debt is surging under the Park government.
“Fiscal soundness is the last bastion for protecting the national economy,” Park said. “Spending should be made in a way that people can feel its effectiveness.”
At the meeting, the Finance Ministry proposed 16 tasks to help national finance. From next year, if ministries want to create new projects, they will be required to cut back on existing ones.
For the next three years, the ministry will also integrate or remove about 600 government projects that overlap with each other to cut spending.
The ministry decided to tighten its belt due to falling tax revenues and the rising government deficit.
As part of efforts to boost the economy while spending less, the government will sell unused military land in Seoul, which amounts to an area 14 times as large as Yeouido, to the private sector by 2017.
About 399 million square meters (98,595 acres) of land has been confirmed to be unused by the Ministry of National Defense.
“Those former military areas in Seoul, especially in Itaewon, are no longer used for military purposes, so they will be sold,” said Bang Moon-kyu, deputy minister for budget at the ministry.
The 2015 budget will be announced in September.
BY SONG SU-HYUN [email@example.com]