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Seoul City seeks to boost budget by W3tr for safety net

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : May 30, 2023 - 14:55

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This photo shows a child walking along a fountain in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on May 16. (Yonhap) This photo shows a child walking along a fountain in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on May 16. (Yonhap)

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday proposed a bill to increase its annual budget by 3.04 trillion won ($2.3 billion) to boost the social safety net, as inflation bites hard on finances of the city's nearly 10 million residents.

The plan, submitted to the city council, will bring this year's total budget of South Korea's capital city to 50.3 trillion won.

The increased budget will be spent to alleviate the rising cost of living of those marginalized, offset city transportation maintenance costs due to the belated fare hike, tackle low fertility and modernize infrastructure, the city said in a press briefing Tuesday.

"Any society is changing constantly, leaving the daily lives of the citizens affected by the changes. So Seoul City sought to take measures to address the unpleasant factors," Jeong Su-yong, Seoul government's deputy mayor for planning and coordination, said at City Hall.

First, some 119.2 billion won will be used to add 2,600 more jobs in public sectors, relieve rent for more small vendors in subway stations and state-run wholesale markets, and subsidize public transportation costs for more poor households.

Separately, some 247.8 billion won will be additionally spent on reducing the debt burden on more of the young generation, helping low-income households move out of underground flats or other forms of substandard residences, providing subsidies to developers of technologies catering to marginalized groups and giving cash handouts to those who have settled their debts.

Also, Seoul will pour in 480 billion won to operators of public buses in the city, including village buses, to ease their financial burden due to a postponed fare hike. A separate 305 billion won -- not from the budget increase -- will be extended to subway operators.

In order to tackle the low birthrate, Seoul will inject 59.7 billion won to expand subsidies for female infertility treatments, egg freezing and postnatal care services.

As for infrastructure modernization, 143.9 billion won will be allocated to replace old subway cars, upgrade the metro's communication devices and ventilation systems, as well as fireproof tunnels.

Meanwhile, the budget bill also indicated Seoul will be working to make Jamsu Bridge, which runs under Banpo Bridge connecting the Yongsan and Seocho districts over the Han River -- car-free and exclusive for pedestrians.

The city is unlikely to plan a new round of budget increases for this year, Jeong added, meaning the total budget for 2023 will see a slight decrease -- by 3.6 percent -- from 52.2 trillion won in 2022.