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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Dec. 1)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:01 December 01, 2022

Don't use the budget for political wrangling

The deadline for legislative approval for next year's budget falls on Friday, and yet the bickering political parties have not yet reviewed the outline. The bill may not even pass by the final day of the plenary session on Dec. 9. The rivaling parities initially planned to finish negotiations of the budgetary subcommittee by early this week. But the review has come to a stop after the People Power Party (PPP) protested the majority opposition Democratic Party's (DP) unilateral axing of the government's budget proposal. The clash worsened after the DP made it official to motion a bill to dismiss Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min to bring a standstill to review.

Next year's budget is crucial, given the menacing economic environment at home and abroad. The growth rate next year is expected to fall under 2 percent, which could mean a stagnated economy as it would underperform its growth potential. A reduction in tax revenue is also inevitable from an economic slowdown. Despite tight spending, it must be wisely spent on protecting the weak, enhancing security against North Korean nuclear threats, and revitalizing the weakening economy. Politicians must discuss the budget instead of fighting.

Still, the DP is careless. It plans to unilaterally pass a bill to dismiss the interior minister on Friday. The minister should be held accountable for the deaths from the Itaewon crowd crush, but why is the party pushing the bill on the deadline day for budgetary approval? The DP plans to seek an impeachment of Lee if President Yoon does not accept his dismissal. The PPP has threatened to boycott a parliamentary probe on the Itaewon tragedy. As the collision worsens, the likelihood of bipartisanship on the budget worsens.

The DP has implied that it could railroad next year's budgetary bill on its own. The DP has raised the budget for public housing rentals by 5.9 trillion won (US$4.5 billion) as campaigned for by DP chief Lee Jae-myung while cutting the budget for public housing for sales as part of the president's campaign promise by 1.1 trillion won. The opposition-led budget has been unprecedented.

The rivalling parties have agreed to carry out a parliamentary probe on the Itaewon disaster after they settle the budget. But the DP came up with a different agenda to send the PPP to reverse its agreement on a parliamentary probe of the tragedy. The economy cannot afford the casual political strife. No political issue can come before urgent economic affairs. The parties must hasten negotiations so that the budget is not victimized by political wrangling.
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