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Finance chief rejects ruling party's call to expand extra budget

All News 18:00 January 17, 2022

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki on Monday opposed the ruling party's call to increase the size of the government-proposed extra budget.

The finance ministry is working on another round of an extra budget worth some 14 trillion won (US$11.7 billion) to support small merchants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has raised the need to expand the size of the extra budget to provide a larger amount of support to more businesses ahead of the March presidential election. The government said it seeks to offer 3 million won each to around 3.2 million merchants.

"Given that it is rare that the government draws up an extra budget at the start of the new year, there is a need for its size to be maintained during parliamentary review," Hong told reporters. "We expect the National Assembly to respect the government's stance."

This photo, taken Jan. 11, 2022, shows a sign put up at a store in the shopping district of Myeongdong in Seoul that reads it will temporarily close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)

The government plans to submit the extra budget proposal to the National Assembly on Jan. 24, after a Cabinet approval this week.

The planned budget will be first financed with debt sale, as an additional 10 trillion won in 2021 excess tax revenue can be used only after the government settles last year's state accounts in April.

Meanwhile, Hong said the government's 2022 economic growth target remains intact at 3.1 percent even though the country has strengthened antivirus measures over the upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

The government "cautiously" expected Asia's fourth-largest economy to have grown 4 percent last year amid robust exports, according to the minister.

"Antivirus restrictions have been strengthened and will be in place throughout January amid the spread of the omicron variant. We have some concerns, but we are keeping its 2022 growth target at 3.1 percent," he said.

Health authorities had imposed tighter antivirus measures, including a four-person cap on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. business hour curfew on cafes and restaurants, from Dec. 18 throughout Sunday.

The government partially eased antivirus measures Monday by raising the cap on private gatherings to six while keeping the curfew until Feb. 6, as the number of virus cases dropped to the 4000s this month.


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