South Korea’s governing Saenuri Party endorsed a plan to vote for a draft bill aimed at reducing government subsidies for pension paid to retired public officials at a general meeting of its lawmakers on Tuesday.
The majority ruling party hopes that the bill will be put to a final vote at a plenary session set for Thursday, Saenuri Floor Leader Rep. Yoo Seong-min said.
But the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which has been reluctant to the degree of reform proposed by the government, could hold the bill from a final vote using the parliament’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The committee chair, NPAD Rep. Lee Sang-min, can block bills from going to a plenary vote.
Lee is likely to keep the reform bill on hold unless the Saenuri Party gives in to the NPAD demand that the parliament submit a request for removal of Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo to President Park Geun-hye, NPAD lawmakers said. The Saenuri party has balked at the proposal.
NPAD officials accuse the minister of making groundless arguments against the party’s stance on pension reforms.
The minister opposes the opposition’s proposals to raise annuities of the national pension scheme, which covers most taxpayers. The minister earlier this month called the NPAD proposal “pirating” from future generations, as the increase would hike the national tax burden.
Moon said the NPAD’s idea of raising pension annuities without raising contributions from taxpayers now would increase taxes on future generations.
The NPAD called the minister’s remarks inflammatory and stated that they were based on bad information.
Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung repeated his reluctance to consider the main opposition’s demands against Moon earlier Tuesday.
“I just don’t understand. If you keep adding new negotiating points on top of the agreements (the parties) have made (on the civil service pension), it keeps those agreements stalled in the National Assembly,” he said.
“We have to pass (civil service pension reforms) as soon as possible.”
President Park also urged the main opposition to agree to pass the civil service pension reform bill at a Cabinet meeting.
“I plead with lawmakers to pass the reform bill this week,” she said. “If such an option is impossible, I plead that they at least pass bills targeting youth unemployment,” she added, in reference to bills that aim to boost the economy by encouraging entrepreneurship, among others.
The proposed changes to the civil service pension will save the government 333 trillion won ($303 billion) over the next 70 years, tallies by a nonpartisan expert panel of local university professors showed.
Critics assert though the tallies do not consider possibilities such as improved healthcare elongating the lives of retired civil servants and the expansion of the civil service.
The NPAD and the Saenuri Party have been at loggerheads over the reforms. The NPAD has demanded that the civil service pension reforms be linked to revisions that would increase annuities from the national pension.
The Saenuri Party is against the idea, and supports discussing national pension reforms after passing the civil service pension reforms this week.
By Jeong Hunny (email@example.com