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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 8)

All News 07:05 December 08, 2017

Assembly passes budget

The Moon Jae-in administration and the governing party may as well be congratulated for their relative success in increasing spending for public welfare in this era of polarizing income. The 428.8 trillion won ($394.4 billion) budget marked an increase of 7.1 percent from this year, and welfare spending jumped 11.7 percent, the highest rise ever.

President Moon will be able to keep his promise of introducing a baby bonus, increasing the basic pension for the elderly and raising the legal minimum wage. All these are necessary given the increasingly harsh lives of working families and the self-employed.

The opposition Liberty Party Korea's labeling it as a "socialists' budget" is below the belt at least for two reasons. First, Korea's public spending against its GDP is nearly at the bottom among 35 OECD member nations. Second, the LKP had also agreed to the budget bill, including its detailed outlays, in the floor leaders' meeting, but reversed its decision later when faced with hard-liners' criticism.

As long as the conservative party sticks to its time-old tactic of painting even basic welfare with the "red ideology" and boycotts parliamentary proceedings, voters will judge it in local and parliamentary elections.

Not everything was OK with the 2018 budget, though.

The 20 percent increase in spending on social infrastructure was every bit anachronistic. Korea's problem is not the lack but the excess of roads, ports, and bridges. The money would have been spent far better on supporting promising startups for innovative growth. Most pitiably, the surge in the SOC (social overhead capital) budget was due to rampant "earmarked" budgeting by political bigwigs aiming for re-election.

There is only one solution ― deliberate on the budget, not just for a month but throughout the year, and broadcast it live.

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