No more ‘blind money’

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No more ‘blind money’

The government has come up with solutions to improve the way state subsidies, also known as “blind money,” are spent. The comprehensive plan aimed at thwarting illegitimate supply and demand of subsidies covers the whole practice, including measures to toughen the requirements and procedures for subsidies, detect corruption and punish anyone involved in corruption.

If officials receive subsidies from the central government in an illegal way, they must pay punitive damages five times the amount of the original subsidy. And if they are proved to have received it in a wrong way, they are banned from engaging in additional projects, not to mention making a list of their names public through a government bulletin and introducing a stiff “one strike out” system. We welcome the Park Geun-hye administration’s efforts to correct widespread malpractices in officialdom.

The government measure also doubled the reward for reporting illegal hanky panky in regards to subsidies, from a current 100 million won ($89,686) to 200 million won. It even provides compensation to whistleblowers when their report saves a considerable amount of government money. That’s a positive step as it could effectively root out the bad practice among ministries and agencies.

At the same time, the government seeks to reinforce the transparency of new projects by examining their eligibility every three years. The government believes it could save a maximum of 1 trillion won in tax annually if the plan works. Put differently, 1 trillion won of our people’s taxes was wasted every year to fatten corrupt people’s bellies. We welcome the government’s decision to clean up the malodorous bureaucratic culture.

State subsidies are provided to local governments and the private sector in regard to the central government’s national projects. The amount of subsidies increased to a whopping 52.5 trillion won this year - about 15 percent of the entire government budget - from 30 trillion won in 2006. The scope of the subsidies is so broad: they cover the costs of the conservation of cultural assets, modernization of farmers’ cattle sheds, support for ship owners’ oil taxes and even for backing ssireum, or Korean traditional wrestling, events in rural areas. It has been a hotbed for corruption. The prosecution and police have found 5,552 people were behind the illicit use of 311.9 billion won over the last year alone.

People in local areas with vested interests can easily get themselves involved in the corruption. That’s why the former administration failed in cracking down three years ago. If the Park administration wants to succeed this time, a detailed action plan must follow.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 5, Page 34

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