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(LEAD) Gov't eyes more than 6.2 tln-won extra budget to fight against coronavirus

Politics 10:27 March 02, 2020

(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- The government plans to draw up an extra budget that is larger than 6.2 trillion won (US$5.12 billion) to fight against the new coronavirus and will submit a related bill this week, officials said Monday.

The government is preparing the supplementary budget bill to submit it to the National Assembly on Thursday, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said in a consultative meeting with the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and government officials over the virus outbreak.

"The best way to overcome the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis is to end the outbreak as fast as we can," Hong said.

The size of the extra budget will be larger than the 6.2 trillion won in fiscal spending set aside to handle the 2015 outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

In 2015, South Korea drew up an extra budget totaling 11.6 trillion won that included 6.2 trillion won allocated for fiscal spending.

The extra budget against the coronavirus may top 10 trillion won, depending on the amount of money allocated to cover a tax revenue shortfall. The government's 2020 budget is already a record 512.5 trillion won.

If created, the budget will be used to support the government's quarantine measures and help smaller merchants hard hit by the outbreak.

Rival political parties agreed Sunday to pass the supplementary budget bill during the extraordinary parliamentary session that will end on March 17.

The participants in the meeting also agreed to set aside special budgets to support small businesspeople and medical workers for the hardest-hit southeastern city of Daegu and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province.

In the meeting, they agreed to increase emergency business funds for smaller merchants and firms and super-low rate loans by 2 trillion won each.

To stabilize people's livelihoods, 2.4 million parents with children will be provided with child care coupons. The government will offer consumption coupons to low-income families.

South Korea is struggling to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19, with the bulk of infections linked to a church in the southeastern city of Daegu. The country has reported 3,736 cases of the new coronavirus so far.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (2nd from L) speaks at a consultative meeting between ruling and government officials over an extra budget bill on the new coronavirus at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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