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'Human New Deal' needed to upgrade welfare services: presidential body

All Headlines 11:01 January 21, 2011

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- Stepping into political wrangling over the scope of public welfare benefits, a presidential panel on Friday proposed a hybrid between "universal" welfare services and "selective" ones.

In its report to President Lee Myung-bak on its key works for this year, the Presidential Council for Future & Vision also suggested that the government resume the so-called Human New Deal Project, a 2009 measure aimed at helping low-income households during a global financial crisis.

The council's proposal comes as the country is locked in heated debates over how much and how broadly the government should cover the daily costs of the people from childcare to healthcare. The controversy has been intensifying ahead of presidential elections scheduled for late next year.

Welfare is a signature issue for the main opposition Democratic Party (DP). The liberal party is calling for the precipitous expansion of welfare benefits, including free childcare, free school lunches and half-priced college tuitions. It claims all families regardless of their income levels should be beneficiaries.

But the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) argues the DP's demands are based on reckless populism, saying it is still premature for South Korea to benchmark European nations over welfare. It wants gradual increases in welfare services starting with services for those in need.

The presidential council played down the disputes between the rival parties as merely being politically motivated.

"A problem is that the concepts of universal welfare and selective welfare are being used incorrectly. Besides, it is not a matter of picking one between the two, which are actually correlated to share roles," it said in a press release.

The panel said the government needs to pursue both universal and selective welfare policies so that beneficiaries can be decided depending on situations and conditions.

It said the Human New Deal Project can serve as a stepping stone to the Korean-style welfare model.

Under the project, the government will step up a drive to reduce household spending on private education, communication and renting houses, while focusing efforts on creating jobs and encouraging the launch of social enterprises and one-man businesses in high-tech industries.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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