Get On With the Budget

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Get On With the Budget

Deliberations over next year''s national budget proposal are barely limping along. This frustrating process has already continued beyond the legal deadline and, for the first time, beyond the end of the National Assembly''s regular session. Even in the special extended session, the two camps have not been able to stick to the schedule. Some are predicting that the negotiations may spill over into next year, calling for the unprecedented necessity to draw up an interim budget for such needs as maintaining government facilities.

The primary fault for the delay lies with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. Knowing the importance of meeting the budget proposal deadline in order to ensure smooth government operations, the party should have made every effort to meet that deadline but instead has consistently let matters slide, wasting time on its own internal strife. The chairman of the Policy Committee, who is supposed to be in charge of budget deliberations, has not been in attendance. With policy-making functions on hold as the successor to the chairman is unsettled, we cannot expect the proposal to get a proper review. Under such circumstances, how can the ruling camp blame the uncooperativeness of the opposition?

The Grand National Party wants to reduce the administration''s proposed budget of 101.3 trillion won by 7 to 8 trillion. The main reason given for the reduction is to avoid increasing the tax burden on the citizenry, which this year alone increased by an estimated 12 to 16 trillion won, and the GNP calls for reductions in the Government Intelligence Service'' budget. The MDP, while looking over a proposal for a 500-billion-won reduction, has also insisted that 1 trillion won more is needed to finance debt writeoffs for farming and fishing households.

The GNP is insisting that budget items should be reviewed not by department and project, as is now done, but by type and function. This deserves consideration as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of exactly how budget money is to be used. But government departments are not prepared for such an immediate change. The GNP should not become fixated on this but should respond more flexibly. The budget deliberations will be the first hurdle faced by Kim Joong-kwon, the newly appointed head of the MDP. We shall be watching how he does.


by Bae Myung-bok

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