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Ruling party reviewing presidential nominee's call for extra universal cash handouts

All News 15:35 November 02, 2021

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) said Tuesday it has started to review a proposal from the party's presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung calling for another round of universal COVID-19 relief funds, amid questions about where the necessary money would come from.

"Our policymaking unit decided to review procedures, size and laws regarding additional relief grants," said Rep. Park Wan-joo, who heads the DP's policy planning committee. "But we need to talk with finance authorities and opposition parties on how it should be done. It's something high-dimensional."

Earlier this week, Lee said the government should dole out additional cash handouts, saying that the relief amount is too small considering the nation's GDP and in comparison with other countries.

"I think 1 million won (US$850) should be given to each, but so far it has provided 480,000-500,000 won per person," Lee said on Sunday. "An additional 300,000 won-500,000 won should be provided at least amid this pandemic."

Lee added that he expects a "reasonable conclusion" on his proposal as the government is expected to log a larger-than-expected surplus in tax revenue this year and many people are still suffering from the pandemic.

Lee has been a supporter of universal cash handouts regardless of people's income level since he was the governor of Gyeonggi Province. While the government provided COVID-19 relief funds to people in the bottom 88 percent income bracket upon the Chuseok holiday, his province also gave relief grants to people in the remaining 12 percent income bracket as well.

Lee Jae-myung (R), the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party, shakes hands with party officials after attending the party's launching of its presidential election committee in Seoul on Nov. 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Despite Lee's call, some DP members voiced concerns as his idea does not appear to be realistic considering the government's financial condition and that the National Assembly's budget deliberation is just around the corner.

"Unless there is massive surplus in tax revenue, it's not going to be easy to reflect an additional 20 trillion won budget in the government's already confirmed budget bill," said a DP official on condition of anonymity. "Although its presidential candidate showed his determination, the party needs to handle the issue flexibly."

The government in August unveiled a record high budget of 604.4 trillion won for next year.

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) has already expressed opposition against Lee's universal handout idea, calling it "vote-buying" and "populism."

"He is telling the government to crawl in front of future power," Her Euna, a spokesperson of the PPP, said. "The nation's livelihood is not a means of getting votes."


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