[사설] The National Debt is 1,000 trillion won, but the National Assembly has further increased the ‘super budget’ for the presidential election

On the 3rd, the results of voting for next year’s budget bill worth 607.7 trillion won are displayed on the electronic board at the main assembly hall of the National Assembly. By Seo Sang-bae, senior staff reporter

The National Assembly held a plenary session yesterday and passed next year’s budget bill worth 607.7 trillion won. As the agreement between the ruling and opposition parties collapsed, the ruling party independently processed the revised budget including the light aircraft carrier budget. It is the largest ever recorded, an increase of 3.3 trillion won from the government budget (604.4 trillion won). The budget originally submitted by the government was an 8.9% increase from the previous year’s main budget (558 trillion won), and was criticized as a ‘super budget’. Nevertheless, the National Assembly did the reverse of increasing the budget rather than cutting it during the review process. It is the second consecutive year of net increase following last year. This is the result of the National Assembly taking care of the votes ahead of the presidential election and trying to loose money. Living in a country that is already difficult has no choice but to wrinkle even deeper. It is questionable whether the budget proposal for next year will serve as a catalyst for restoring people’s livelihood and revitalizing growth engines.

Considering the impact of COVID-19, expansion of fiscal spending and budgeting deficits are inevitable. However, the more it does, the more the National Assembly is responsible for carefully examining the fiscal efficiency of the budget and preventing the waste of blood tax. However, when looking at the budget for next year, it cannot but be pointed out that the ‘budget for the presidential election’ was increased too much while neglecting this responsibility. A representative example is the large increase in the local currency budget, which was strongly demanded by the Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung. The government initially set the size of issuance of local love gift certificates at 6 trillion won and included a budget of 240 billion won (4% of the support rate), but during the parliamentary review process, the issuance volume was increased five times to 30 trillion won. Even the Korea Institute of Taxation and Finance, a state-run institution, has criticized local currency for not helping to revitalize the local economy. Criticism of ‘populism’ cannot be avoided.

Even more worrisome is that many of the budgets for constituencies of the ruling and opposition lawmakers are reflected in the budget for next year. The lawmakers were focused on increasing the constituency budget, and they were only doing their own thing. Kim Young-jin, secretary-general of the Democratic Party, won 10 billion won as a budget to build the Suwon Paldal Police Station in Suwon City Byeong, Gyeonggi Province. Park Wan-joo, chairman of the policy committee, secured 110 billion won as a budget to install the Gunan Station for disaster evacuation in the basement of the KTX Cheonan Asan Station in Cheonan-si, Chungcheongnam-do, which is a local district. People’s Power floor leader Kim Ki-hyeon (Nam-gu, Ulsan) secured a budget related to the constituency including 7.6 billion won for the public parking lot in front of Pyeongchang Hyundai Apartment in Nam-gu, Ulsan. Rep. Man-hee Lee (Yeongcheon-si, Cheongdo-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do), an opposition secretary of the Preliminary Committee, secured a large amount of new budget that was not reflected in the original government plan. He was overjoyed by the fact that he was holding a party for the budget of the constituency with money from the country regardless of the state’s financial situation.

The financial situation of the country cannot afford to endure excessive fiscal expansion. The national debt, which stood at 600 trillion won just before the Moon Jae-in administration took office, is expected to exceed 1,000 trillion won next year. This is the result of fiscal spending that greatly exceeds the growth rate of the current government. The national debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to exceed 50% next year and reach 58% by 2025. Still, it is irresponsible and unscrupulous for the politicians to dump money and pass on the debt to future generations.

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