Common ground remains elusive as budget deadline draws near [2014/11/25 17:18]

The ruling and main opposition parties` budget row continued unabated Monday with less than two weeks left until the Nov. 30 budget review deadline. The ruling Saenuri Party continued its attack on the so-called “free welfare” schemes promoted by the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

“It is now time to rethink universal welfare schemes such as free meals, free child care and free housing from the viewpoint of the people,” Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung said.

Citing surveys showing that selective welfare that provides more resources for those in need had wider public support, Kim went on to say that “indiscriminate free welfare” was irresponsible and that the issue was being used to deceive the people.

Since the budget review began, the two parties have been wrangling over funding for welfare projects, with the ruling party backing the Park Geun-hye administration`s child care program for preschool children over school meals. The NPAD, for its part, has called for corporate tax reductions to be removed for funding welfare schemes, and in addition proposed allocating funds to subsidize cheap housing for newlyweds.

The NPAD also stepped up its accusations that the Saenuri Party is twisting the truth. “(The NPAD`s plan) is to increase (state-run) rental housing, but the Saenuri Party is condemning the plans by overemphasizing the word ‘free,`” NPAD interim leader Rep. Moon Hee-sang said. Moon said that the plan drawn up by NPAD lawmakers to offer more housing to newlyweds was based on rental housing and that it was an important part of addressing the country`s low birthrate.

He added that the ruling party`s actions can only be regarded as a worn-out political offensive. The ruling party and the NPAD also remain far apart on how to approach the budget review and meet the deadline. Under the revised National Assembly Act, the budget drawn up by the government will be put to a vote without any changes unless the parties complete the review by Nov. 30, prompting the parties to agree to complete the process in time.

However, the NPAD is focusing on reducing what it calls unjustifiable budget items, regardless of the deadline, while the ruling party`s focus is on keeping the budget intact to the greatest degree possible and meeting the deadline.

The NPAD hopes to cut funding for the four-rivers restoration, resource diplomacy projects started under the Lee Myung-bak administration and other projects. The main opposition has also declared that it will ensure that the budget is reduced for programs that have shown little progress in the past and those that do not have detailed plans.
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