Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks during a news briefing on the Finance Ministry-led measures to support microbusiness owners at Government Complex Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
SEJONG -- The Ministry of Economy and Finance has unveiled its policy to draw up a supplementary budget worth 14 trillion won ($11.7 billion), most of which will be used to support small business owners including the self-employed.
Under constitutional government in Korea since 1948, this will mark the second time a supplementary budget bill has been submitted to the National Assembly in January. This first case was conducted in January 1951 during the inter-Korean War.
In a news briefing at Government Complex Seoul, Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government “would foster an extra budget for only small business owners.”
As the social distancing will be extended by three more weeks, the government has decided to pay microbusiness owners and the self-employed -- only those whose turnover has declined (compared to past years) -- 3 million won per business, Hong said.
He said total support would amount to about 10 trillion won, which will be proposed to the Assembly before the Lunar New Year Holiday that begins on Jan. 30.
The 3 million won is in addition to the 1 million won payouts that were made to businesses as quarantine support in December.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea had continued to call for the Finance Ministry to allocate a supplementary budget.
The ministry had taken a wait-and-see stance. But the excess tax revenue in 2021, beyond the earlier estimate of the government, has left it with no choice but to accept the parliamentary request.
On the same day, ruling party’s presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung expressed discontent with the size of the extra budget, questioning “the efficacy from the small amount of money.”
Lee, alongside a group of lawmakers from the Democratic Party, had called for the government to allocate a quarantine situation-related budget worth 25 trillion-30 trillion won.
The main opposition party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol had pledged that he would take the initiative in creating a full-fledged extra budget -- worth 50 trillion won -- this year, if elected, for microbusiness operators.
An issue is the ruling party’s agreement with the main opposition People Power Party, as the ruling party seeks to pass the bill by mid-February. The election for the 20th president of South Korea is slated for March 9.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)