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Oh blasts populist welfare policies

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon blasted political parties for their proposed welfare policies Sunday, calling them populist ploys ahead of elections.

He also warned against unconditional welfare policies, saying that they would erode the growth potential of the country.

“Expanded welfare would cause tax hikes, and then ordinary people will suffer,” he said in an interview with the Yonhap news agency. “The political circles should frankly let the people know the truth, even though it is uncomfortable.”

He also said that no matter how important welfare is, the ruling party should not push policies that could erode the country’s growth potential.

The mayor of the capital emphasized that if the minimum 60 percent of weight is placed on growth, the government will be able to secure enough fiscal resources to sustain its supharmed by economic polarization.

“If the city gives citizens anything they want, its welfare policy will be no more than populism flattering the people,” he said. “It is politicians’ duty and responsibility in this age to present a sustainable welfare model which will not erode the future growth potential.”

Asked about the raging debate on politicians’ vows to halve university tuition, he kept his distance, while agreeing on the need to ease the school fee burden.

“Universities should be the first to step forward to remove bubbles from tuition, as they are obese with massive cash reserves,” he said. “If the government tries to inject taxpayers’ money, it should seek a social agreement.”

Oh expects a citizens’ referendum in late August on whether to implement free school meals to all schools. Civic groups are currently gathering signatures to put the free meal measure to vote.

However, he projected that if a third or more of Seoul voters turn out to the polling stations, the measure will likely be voted down.

Oh said that he would respect vote results no matter how they turn out, but noted that if the turnout rate falls behind a third, the situation will get complicated.

Under the current law, a measure will be approved when a third and more of eligible voters turn out and a majority of them cast yes ballots. Unless the number of actual voters tops a third of registered voters, the vote will not be counted.

By Chun Sung-woo (swchun@heraldcorp.com)
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