A flop overnight

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A flop overnight

 The Moon Jae-in administration’s fourth supplementary budget for this year was announced Thursday. There had been disputes about the scope of the second round of relief grants amid the prolonging Covid-19 crisis. President Moon had to step in to set the guidelines by ordering selective handouts due to a lack of fiscal resources as the new stimuli should mostly be financed by issuing debt.

“Unlike the first relief grants in a blanket form, they should be customized [for the most needy] this time,” Moon said.

The money should go to the most hard-hit businesses and classes in “sufficient sum,” he added. Despite his orders in consideration of the shortage of revenues, however, the emergency fund will be doled out in a different way.

The relief funds should go to the self-employed grappling with multiple whammies of forced shutdowns from toughened social distancing rules and repeated typhoons and flooding. But the ruling Democratic Party (DP) has pushed blanket relief programs that could use up the lacking funds.

The talk of handing out a subsidy for wireless telecommunication fees is an example. The DP first proposed to subsidize a 20,000 won ($17) monthly phone bill for those aged from 17 to 34 and 50 and older. Then the party changed its mind and instead planned to offer it to everyone aged 13 and above. Those under 13 receive child care checks. DP head Lee Nak-yon said the move could be a “small comfort” to citizens plagued by the virus. Although the subsidy could feel insignificant to the receiving end, the cost of the budget would account for more than 10 percent of the fourth supplementary bill amounting to 7 trillion won.

The scope of beneficiaries of the second relief checks has been gradually broadened. Even while those without jobs and income from their forced business shutdowns are eagerly waiting for the check, the ruling party is gambling on with the list. Some are calling it “selective waste” not “selective relief.”

As DP Policy Chief Han Jung-ae admitted, the blanket relief fund was a populist idea ahead of the election. The ruling party may be tempted to use stimuli or relief measures to win back voters who have turned sour over the controversies of favoritism about Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae. Relief measures should be fine-tuned so that they actually help the most vulnerable.

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