Moon says swift execution of extra budget only way to ensure recovery, growth

SEOUL-- President Moon Jae-in urged the parliament to quickly approve the government request for a supplementary budget Tuesday, stressing it is the only way to ensure an economic recovery and even higher-than-expected growth.

In his latest call on the opposition-led parliament to endorse the government bill to create an 11.2 trillion won (US$9.85 billion) extra budget, the president insisted early execution of the additional government spending may ensure an annual economic expansion of over 3 percent for the first time in three years.

"Our economic growth remained at the 2 percent range over the past two years while the growth outlook for this year has been lowered to 2.2 percent," the president said in a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"But the economy is showing some hopeful signs this year. It has yet to show substantial growth, but our exports are on the rise. If the extra budget is executed at an early date, we may be able to escape the low-growth trap. We may again open an era of economic growth in the 3 percent range," he added.

Asia's fourth-largest economy expanded 3.3 percent on-year in 2014. The growth rate has since slowed to 2.8 percent over the next two years, according to data from the Bank of Korea.

The government request for the extra budget has largely been sitting idle at the National Assembly, partly due to a political impasse created by disputes over some of the president's nominees for new ministers.

Still, 10 minister-nominees, including new justice minister-nominee Park Sang-ki tapped earlier Tuesday, await their parliamentary confirmation hearings to be held.

The government bill on the extra budget is also highly contested.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has flatly dismissed the request, claiming it violates the National Finance Act that allows the creation of an extra budget only in certain cases such as a national disaster or mass unemployment.

President Moon has said part of the additional spending will go to creating 11,000 new jobs in the public sector as part of efforts to reduce high jobless rates, especially for the young people whose unemployment rate stood at 11.2 percent in April, a record high for the month in the country's history.

Other opposition parties also remain skeptical, noting the new jobs, though much needed, may create a heavy and lasting burden on the country's taxpayers.

Apparently seeking to remove some of the opposition-held concerns, the president said part of the extra budget will be used to support the Winter Olympic Games to be held in the country's eastern city of Pyeongchang early next year, as well as to repair damage from the ongoing heavy drought.

"I especially ask the opposition parties to cooperate so we may not miss our chance to repair our economy and improve the livelihood of the people," the president said.

Currently, the ruling Democratic Party controls 120 parliamentary seats, the largest number of seats held by any single political party but still far short of a majority in the 300-seat National Assembly.

Four opposition parties together control 173 seats with the main opposition LKP holding 107 seats.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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