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Ahead of local elections, lawmakers bent on pork-barrel projects

Ahead of local elections, lawmakers bent on pork-barrel projects

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Published : 2013-12-15 19:54
Updated : 2013-12-15 19:54

Lawmakers are proposing increases of trillions of won in next year’s government spending as they strive to win over voters ahead of local elections in June.

The National Assembly began to review the government’s 364.7 trillion won ($346 billion) budget proposal late last month.

Of 15 standing committees, 12 have concluded their budget reviews, requesting a combined 4.76 trillion won boost to the administration’s budget plan.

The Land Infrastructure and Transport Committee led the way by asking for a 2.23 trillion won increase while the Security and Public Administration Committee followed suit by calling for an additional 690 billion won.

With the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee, the Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, and the Health and Welfare Committee anticipated to demand similar budget raises of up to 1.84 trillion won, members of parliament may ask the government to spend 9 trillion won more next year.

Most relevant to the 2014 provincial elections in June, however, are the land infrastructure and transportation; agriculture, food, rural affairs, oceans and fisheries; education, culture, sports and tourism; and the health and welfare committees because they deal with the majority of civil affairs issues in provinces nationwide.

The land infrastructure and transportation committee’s budget dealings will have a strong say in, for instance, how many new local roads will be built in rural communities, while approved budget increases from the health and welfare committee could decide how much the government will fund health insurance plans for the poor.

But as is the case in a majority of money petitions, it is a limited affair.

“Considering that the final budget received changes in the 2.5 trillion to 4 trillion won range, traditionally speaking, I really don’t think all these petitions will be receiving the go-ahead from the special committee (on budget and accounts)” said an official from parliament’s Special Committee on Budget & Accounts, which is the National Assembly’s last legislative filter before sending the budget plan for final review and voting.

Tension has been high at parliament with representatives from both the Saenuri Party and the DP disagreeing on a number of issues regarding the national budget. But as the clock ticks toward the New Year, parliament is under public pressure to pass important legislation.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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