Gov’t and ruling party agree on 2017 budgetThe government and ruling party have agreed on a budget for next year that is expected to exceed 400 trillion won ($360 billion) for the first time. A major portion will focus on creating jobs especially for young people.
Kim Gwang-lim, the Saenuri Party’s chief policymaker, said Wednesday that the government and party have agreed to raise next year’s budget by 3.7 percent after a meeting with the country’s finance minister, Yoo Il-ho.
“The overall budget will be raised by 3.7 percent [from this year] while the budget for jobs, which was 2.3 trillion won this year, will be raised by more than 10 percent,” Kim said during a press briefing at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul. “The budget, especially for youth employment, will significantly increase by more than 15 percent.”
The lawmaker said the government and party have agreed to raise spending on youth at a higher rate than that of overall budget growth in order to help combat the low birthrate issue and problems associated with an aging population.
Finance Minister Yoo said the government has decided to take an expansionary approach for next year’s budget in hopes of bolstering the economy, which is suffering from declining exports.
Kim said the ruling party has asked the Ministry of Strategy and Finance to keep the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 41 percent through the budget.
“We found today that the national debt is very stable, as it didn’t exceed 40.5 percent,” Kim said. “Initially, we considered increasing the budget for next year from 3 percent to a maximum of 4 percent but settled on increasing it to the upper end of 3 percent.”
The government and ruling party also agreed on spending 63 billion won to install 30,000 air conditioning units in the barracks of those serving out their mandatory military conscription. Some 180 outdated buses currently used by the National Policy Agency, mostly for riot control, will also be swapped with newer models with updated air conditioning.
“There will be no facilities used by military and drafted police servicemen without air conditioning,” Finance Minister Yoo said.
Yoo also urged the opposition parties to pass a 10 trillion won-plus supplementary budget that has been held hostage in the National Assembly due to political gridlock over choosing witnesses for a public hearing on the troubled Daewoo Shipping & Marine Engineering.
The supplementary budget review has been repeatedly pushed back since it was first scheduled on Aug. 12, edging closer to the government’s initial planned execution date of next month.
“Even if the dates have passed, I hope [the lawmakers] will pass the supplementary budget as soon as possible,” Yoo said.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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