Parliamentary panel holds first meeting to review gov’t’s 2019 budget proposal

SEOUL, A parliamentary special committee on the budget held its first meeting Monday to review the government's proposal for next year's budget.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) seeks to defend the record-high 470.5 trillion-won (US$412.4 billion) budget proposal. But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) vowed to sharply cut spending plans to create short-term jobs and inter-Korean ties.

The government is pushing for expansionary fiscal spending next year to prop up the slowing economy and buttress President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative with North Korea.

The proposal included a record 23.5 trillion won in funds for job creation and increased expenditure on social welfare and inter-Korean projects.

"Expansionary fiscal spending is needed to preemptively respond to economic headwinds and vitalize the local economy," Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon told lawmakers at the meeting.

The DP said that next year's budget will be spent on building an "inclusive country" where people live well together.

"The party will focus on keeping the budget proposal intact as much as possible as it will back up the Moon government's management of state affairs," Cho Jeong-sik, a DP lawmaker, told a press briefing.

He countered claims by opposition parties that the government's spending plan on short-term job creation and inter-Korean ties is nothing but pork barrel spending.

In particular, the LKP insisted that the government is attempting to make up for its policy failures with what the party called a fiscal spending binge with taxpayer money.

"Of the total job budget, the money allocated to creating jobs through fiscal spending will account for just 16 percent and the rest will be the government's existing job-related subsidies," Cho said.

He also said that the state inter-Korean cooperation fund should not be cut at all.

The government set aside 1.1 trillion won for the fund in 2019 by taking into account a potential increase in inter-Korean cooperative projects amid rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula.

"Next year's budget size is similar to a five-year average of the fund worth 1.1 trillion won," Cho said. "We cannot let the budget be curtailed even a cent."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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