Published : 2013-08-21 20:45
Updated : 2013-08-21 20:45
Key officials from the main opposition Democratic Party started a round of consultations Tuesday with metropolitan and provincial government heads affiliated with the party on next year’s budgetary needs. The DP says the discussions, which will continue through next week, will help draw up a more balanced and efficient budget plan for 2014 by reviewing pending projects and grasping exact demands for spending in each region.
On the same day, DP chairman Kim Han-gil praised an intraparty committee set up in May to support the economically weak for having shown what politics caring for people’s livelihoods should be like.
Such efforts to highlight the pragmatism of the opposition party, however, have been dampened by its outdoor protest campaign launched three weeks ago to push the ruling camp to be more cooperative on a parliamentary probe into allegations the state spy agency meddled in last year’s presidential election. With little progress made in the inquiry set to end Friday, the DP has been under mounting pressure to return to parliament. The ruling Saenuri Party convened an extraordinary Assembly session Monday to settle annual government accounts for 2012 before undertaking deliberation on the 2014 budget bill during the regular session, which is set to open Sept. 2.
The DP appears to be in no position to end its outdoor protest, unless it gains some concessions from the ruling party and President Park Geun-hye, who has remained reluctant to hold a one-on-one meeting with the opposition leader. It has recently called for appointing an independent counsel to make a more thorough investigation into the scandal surrounding the National Intelligence Service.
As this paper has noted, Park needs to be more flexible in discussing the DP’s demands, including the reform of the intelligence agency, to ensure the smooth parliamentary passage of bills designed to galvanize the economic recovery.
It may fall on a deaf ear at the moment, but our advice for the opposition party is to return to parliament in time for the closure of the parliamentary probe, regardless of what concessions will be made by the ruling bloc. This move might anger some of its core members but bring the liberal opposition party broader public support, which will be essential to winning elections in the years to come.
Even if the Assembly immediately undertakes work on settling the 2012 government account worth 325 trillion won ($291 billion), it is hard to expect the process to be thorough. Further delay in scheduling the process will make it impossible to complete the account settlement by the end of the month as stipulated in the law. The parliament has failed to keep the legal deadline every year except for 2011 since current rules were introduced in 2004.
It should no longer be accepted as routine practice to hold account settlements and budget approvals hostage to partisan wrangling or legislators’ negligent and irresponsible attitudes. More attention should be paid to the need for timely and thorough work to balance government accounts. If lawmakers more closely scrutinize whether the previous year’s budget was spent properly, government agencies will be pressured to pay more heed to drawing up and implementing their next annual budget plan. Lawmakers should recognize that they can serve the interests of their electorate by reducing waste of taxpayers’ money as well as securing a bigger budget for them.
The Democratic Party may demonstrate its true commitment to politics that enhance people’s livelihoods by seriously tackling the work to settle government accounts.