Seoul seeks 4.7% increase in budget [2014/11/19 10:30]

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Monday submitted a budget proposal of 25.6 trillion won ($23.6 billion) for next year, up nearly 5 percent on-year, to the municipal assembly. The city has increased its budget for safety-related projects and welfare programs, including free school bus services for elementary school children and free lunch programs in collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

Reflecting the need to strengthen safety after the Sewol ferry sinking and frequent sinkhole appearances, the Seoul Metropolitan Government earmarked 1.8 trillion won for safety-related projects next year, up 22 percent on-year. The projects include maintenance work on the Seoul Metro and replacing or repairing old rainwater sewer pipes.

The city has also increased its welfare budget by 15.6 percent, vowing to invest a total of 98.4 billion won in establishing 150 more day care centers in order to support working moms across Seoul, while spending 18.9 billion won to create jobs and entertainment and cultural programs for the elderly.

The city is also spending 40.4 billion won on care programs for dementia patients. The city`s elderly population -- those aged 65 or older -- exceeded 1 million in 2010 and is expected to climb to 1.6 million by 2019. For school children, the city set aside 181 billion won from its own coffers, without support from the central government.

This money will be spent on providing 33 school buses for elementary school children, renovating school bathrooms in a total of 57 schools, and coming up with free lunch programs that feature environmentally friendly meals in 940 schools serving 705,000 students.

“We think of welfare programs as an investment for the future of Seoul,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said during a press conference Monday, adding that the city`s financial status is facing a “difficult situation” as tax revenue is decreasing amid its increased spending.

Also on Monday, the Seoul education office said Monday it had set aside 91.4 billion won for a free child care program for children aged 3-5 - only enough to cover only three months of costs. The announcement about the Nuri program was made after municipal education offices had expressed concerns about the mounting cost of the free child care services due to severe budgetary deficits.

To cover the costs for the remaining nine months of the Nuri program, the education agency said it would continue to seek financial support from the central government.
출처: 헤럴드미디어 영자신문 코리아헤럴드 (www.koreaherald.com)