Budget spreads pork all around

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Budget spreads pork all around

Top lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties who led negotiations for next year’s budget plan all arranged good amounts of pork for their constituencies, the final 375.4 trillion won ($337.4 billion) budget shows.

The pork for the political heavyweights largely consisted of government spending on regional infrastructure projects, such as the construction of regional expressways and development of special industrial zones.

In the past, lawmakers from the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) lashed out at influential Saenuri lawmakers for writing in bigger government subsidies for their districts’ developments. One of the most memorable cases involved former Rep. Lee Sang-deuk, elder brother of former President Lee Myung-bak, who maneuvered significant government spending for his district of Pohang in North Gyeongsang during the early years of the Lee administration. Lee’s mastery of the budget process led to the term “brotherly budget” and invited criticism and scorn from the opposition.

But as current lawmakers managed to achieve the goal of passing the annual budget by the legal deadline set by the Constitution for the first time in 12 years through a display of rare bipartisan spirit, there was also no squabbles about the pork - because it was fairly evenly spread around in the same spirit of bipartisanship.

The 375.4 trillion won budget was passed Wednesday night by 225 to 28. Twenty lawmakers abstained.

Busan, the country’s second-largest city, received a whopping increase of 750 billion won, or 30.1 percent, in budget spending compared to this year’s budget, winning a 3.25 trillion won budget plan. It is the largest budget plan the southern coastal city has ever received in history. Busan has districts that elected two powerful politicians: Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung and Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa.

The Busan city government won some projects not included in the budget first proposed by the government, such as a 3.1 billion won budget to modernize its fishing markets and a 5.5 billion won project for railroad repairs.

The South Chungcheong provincial government had its pork increased from the government’s initial proposal. The budget for a railroad construction project along the West Coast was boosted by 10 billion won. It also took an additional 5 billion won for the construction of a highway linking Dangjin and Cheonan.

Saenuri Floor Leader Lee Wan-koo represents Buyeo and Cheongyang counties in South Chungcheong.

Of the many regional constituencies that saw hefty budget increases thanks to their influential representatives, it was the Jeolla regions that received a “budget jackpot.”

North and South Jeolla provincial governments saw government spending increased by 110 billion won from the government’s initial budget proposal. A lawmaker in the spotlight is Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, a confidante of President Park Geun-hye, who campaigned on bringing in what he called a “budget bomb” to his district in a July by-election campaign.

Lee’s victory marked the first time in 26 years that a conservative party candidate was elected in South Jeolla, a traditional opposition stronghold. Lee got his district 2.5 billion won in spending.

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