Budget for 2015 continues to be debated by reps

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Budget for 2015 continues to be debated by reps

With less than a week to go before the deadline for the National Assembly’s review of next year’s budget, a special team of lawmakers continued discussions on Sunday to narrow down their differences on the plan.

The review team representing the Assembly’s Budget Committee was formed on Saturday to decide what should be cut from the Park Geun-hye government’s budget proposal, which is worth about 370 trillion won ($333 billion).

The team is made up of four lawmakers - two each from the Saenuri Party and New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Representatives are contending over whether or not to allocate taxpayer money to 126 projects.

The governing party appears to be doing its best to keep as many policies intact against demands from the opposition that they should be shelved to divert more funds to welfare programs.

But it remains far from clear whether the rival parties will be able to bridge their differences by Sunday, the deadline required by the National Assembly Act for the review.

The most contentious issue is whether the central government should provide aid to local authorities for free day care services aimed at preschoolers aged 3 to 5, which is also known as the Nuri Program.

The two parties continued to challenge one another on the matter on Thursday when the Saenuri backtracked on a bipartisan agreement to allocate 560 billion won to the welfare program, which was announced earlier in the day.

Other projects in dispute include those that are representative of the Park government’s major policies.

The administration earmarked 39.4 billion won of next year’s budget to construct a world peace park along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 19.7 billion won to create a so-called special creative economy zone.

Both schemes are currently being targeted by the NPAD, which is demanding a substantial reduction to their allocated funds.

Much attention has been drawn to whether the two parties can reach middle ground on the budget by the Nov. 30 deadline because a plan that has not been fully agreed on by the two parties could still be put up for a parliamentary vote on Dec. 2 due to the National Assembly Advancement Act.

As a result, this year marks the first time that an unmodified budget plan could be unveiled to the parties and presented for a parliamentary vote.

Recognizing the possibility that partisan gridlock might continue after the deadline, the Saenuri has repeatedly made it clear that it will see the budget plan put up for a vote on Dec. 2 regardless of the progress made on the bipartisan deal.

Noting that this is the first year that the advancement act could be enacted and emphasizing the importance of adhering to it, Rep. Park Dae-chul of the Saenuri said Sunday that the passing of the budget plan on Dec. 2 is something the Saenuri “must strive to keep.”

The NPAD, on the other hand, argues that the Assembly speaker could delay the deadline for another seven days if the party leaders agree to do so.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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