President Yoon Suk-yeol said Monday that the government was doing all it could to help overcome the economic difficulties faced by the public, calling for bipartisan efforts from lawmakers who are bogged down in wrangling over committee chairmanships.
“There is no fundamental way to deal with the problems that arise because money supply is high, and because high interest rates are being used around the world to curb high inflation and high prices,” Yoon replied when asked by reporters whether there is a measure to the concern about a global economic downturn amid the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike.
Last week, the US Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percentage point, the most aggressive hike since 1994, to tame inflation, which was at its highest point there in 40 years. Market watchers in South Korea expect the Bank of Korea to raise its key interest rate to 2.75 percent by the end of this year.
Inflationary pressures have been intensifying worldwide, with the US and the eurozone seeing inflation of 8.6 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively. The consumer price index in Korea also rose 5.4 percent on-year last month, the highest increase in 13 years.
Yoon said, “We are trying our best to manage the livelihoods and prices of the middle class and ordinary people, the target of the government’s policy.”
Economic-related ministries focus all their efforts on easing the burden on livelihoods, with stabilizing prices as their top priority.
First of all, the government decided to cut the fuel tax by 37 percent -- an extension from the current 30 percent -- to reduce the burden of rising oil prices. This will make the tax per liter fall by 57 won ($0.04) for gasoline, 38 won for diesel and 12 won for LPG. In the second half of this year, the income deduction rate for public transportation credit cards will also rise to 80 percent. In addition, the government will freeze public sector charges, such as road tolls, and minimize increases in electricity bills.Ghost parliament
When asked what he would do if legislation for additional measures is needed relating to cost-of-living issues, Yoon replied, “We should submit a bill.”
He said if the National Assembly had been “operating normally,” the revision of laws would have also been proposed.
“Now the people cannot breathe,” Yoon said, calling on the opposition party to work in a “bipartisan” manner on policies that need to be amended.
The parliamentary vacuum has lasted for 22 days due to disagreements over the formation of the National Assembly chair members in the second half of the 21st National Assembly.
As the ruling and opposition parties continue to confront each other without making concessions over which party will take the chairmanship of the judiciary committee, the plenary session to elect the Speaker and Deputy Speakers has not even been scheduled.
There are more than 10,000 bills pending in the National Assembly. In particular, there are delays in processing various bills related to regulatory reform for economic recovery, job creation support, unfair hiring practices, guaranteeing mobility for the disabled and eradicating child abuse.
Rep. Lee Won-wook of the Democratic Party recently said, “The ghost parliament, which has not even formed members, should declare no work and return the tax expenses (their salaries).”
But he failed to draw the attention of other lawmakers.
Instead, many lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties are headed abroad for business trips. About 20 overseas trips by lawmakers are scheduled for June and July alone.
The ruling party has suggested holding a “marathon” meeting to resolve the issue, but the main opposition appears unlikely to accept, with its leadership repeating the demand that the People Power Party make concessions.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org