Dereliction of dutyThe National Assembly has missed the legal deadline to pass next year’s budget. The legislature has repeatedly broken the law and Constitution. The only year annual government spending went into effect on time was 2014, the year the National Assembly Advance Law, which automatically approves the government’s budgetary proposal when it is not passed within the legal deadline, went into effect. As long as the following year’s budget is passed by Dec. 2, the finance ministry can allocate funding to a number of government offices to start their projects on time.
To ensure the budget scheme stays on schedule, the government has advanced its proposal for next year’s spending to early September. But the legislature never got around to the budget review because it was preoccupied with its regular audit of the government. The regular audit period should be adjusted to give the Assembly more time to review the budget. Otherwise, the government may have to draw up supplementary budgets every year. In fact, it has become routine for the legislature to scan through the budget and wrangle over a supplementary budget the following year.
The government proposes a record budget of over 470 trillion won ($423 billion) for next year, which is an increase of 9.7 percent from this year’s spending. Over 23 trillion won is allocated to the single goal of creating jobs. The budget requires extra deliberation from the legislature. But much of the work has been handed over to the subcommittees who do not have the legitimate authority to endorse the government’s budgetary plan. Their meetings are not recorded and released to the press. As a result, how the National Assembly reached its conclusion to endorse the plan may never be known. Also, there are concerns about deals for pork barrel spending among lawmakers, who tend to put the interests of their constituencies over greater national needs.
Every detail of the subcommittee meetings should be released to prevent behind-the-scenes deals. It is the legislature’s duty to explain what changes have been made in the government’s budget outline. The government must also disclose details of the reductions and increases to its budgetary plan as a result of the legislature’s review.
The National Assembly now has more say in budgetary review. The finance ministry must double-check whether extra populist spending was added out of the blue. Any budgetary increases made after the legislative review should be seconded by the finance minister by law. The last job of outgoing finance minister Kim Dong-yeon should be to ensure that there is no waste in the national coffers.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 4, Page 30