Time to stop spendingThe main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) announced a plan to call for 15 trillion won ($13.4 billion), or a 50 percent increase to the government’s proposed fiscal spending for next year in order to increase birth rates. The conservative party proposed 20 million won incentives for each birth and a cash gift card of up to 2 million won to 300,000 mothers-to-be. It also proposed to offer 300,000 won to each household with children under the age of 12 regardless of their income.
The conservative government, which criticized the ruling Democratic Party for its reckless welfare promises, has upped the ante now that it is part of the opposition. A conservative party has the duty to uphold liberalism in the economy and tax cuts to finance welfare and growth in order to keep the liberal front in check on its platforms of tax hikes and redistribution. Welfare and job-related spending already takes up 34 percent of the liberal government’s record-sized 2019 budget. Spending increased by 17.6 percent this year. The conservative party’s populist platform to chase votes will only undermine the fragile conservative base.
It is true that the low birth rate is an urgent issue for the country. Over the past 12 years, governments have poured in a whopping 126 trillion won into promoting childbirth, but the fertility rate has fallen to become the world’s worst. If the conservative party is serious about the birth issue, it should persuade both the ruling and other parties to pursue practical solutions rather than proposing further spending and additional handouts. If the opposition pitches more spending to encourage births, it cannot argue against other expansive welfare programs pursued by the liberal government and ruling party. Once stretched, social welfare cannot come down. The LKP must stop its populist platform and work with other assembly members to save money in the government’s expansion plans.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 7, Page 30
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