Day care discordance

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Day care discordance

The cacophony the government and the ruling party are making over a budget for free day care is troubling. The leadership of the ruling party has overturned a budget agreement among the education minister and representatives of the ruling and main opposition parties, accusing the education minister of over-reaching his authority. We are dumbfounded by the lack of communication and governance capabilities demonstrated by these individuals.

Education Minister Hwang Woo-yeo, Shin Sung-bom of the Saenuri Party and Kim Tae-nyeon of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) are on the legislative committee on education, cultural, sports and tourism affairs. They agreed to raise 560 billion won ($502 million) in next year’s budget for subsidies for local education offices to finance the free day care program for 3- to 5-year-olds. The amount was unchanged from the original budget appropriated by the education minister. The agreement raised hopes for a breakthrough in a legislative stalemate over next year’s budget.

But unexpected resistance came from the ruling party. Kim Jae-won, the deputy floor leader, denied any agreement. He said the floor leaders weren’t aware of the discussions and the ruling party wouldn’t agree to the budget proposal. He accused Hwang of “crossing the line.” Amid the strife, Shin offered his resignation as a senior member on the education affairs committee.

The friction between the ruling and opposition parties over next year’s budget only worsened with internal strife within the ruling party. The NPAD strongly criticized the ruling party for causing confusion. From the way things stand, the legislature won’t likely pass the budget within the required Dec. 2 deadline.

Day care was one of Park Geun-hye’s main welfare promises when she was running for president. How such an important matter was not coordinated among government offices and the ruling party is incomprehensible. Some are even suspecting a power struggle between the two deputy ministers on the economy and education, who happen to be the president’s key confidants.

The government and the ruling party have been discordant on a number of issues, including a tobacco tax hike and a constitutional reform comment by Saenuri Party chief Kim Moo-sung. They can hardly expect the people to cooperate and support their policies if they can’t even stick to an agreement themselves.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 30

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