Bangkok Post

Seoul tables extra budget to create 810,000 jobs


SEJONG: South Korea’s new government announced a 11.2 trillion won ($10 billion) fiscal stimulus package yesterday, increasing social welfare subsidies and taking steps to deliver on President Moon Jae-in’s election promise to create 810,000 public sector jobs.

But Moon’s ruling Democratic Party faces a challenge passing the extra budget bill as it only holds 40% of the 299 seats in the National Assembly and would need the support of more than 30 opposition lawmakers.

Both parties in the conservati­ve opposition — the Bareun Party and the Liberty Korea Party — have said the increased welfare spending could become unsustaina­ble and that the plan does not meet legal requiremen­ts.

“The stimulus package allocates 5.4 trillion won to create public sector and social services jobs, including places for fire fighters, teachers and postal workers,’’ the Finance Ministry said.

Another 2.3 trillion won will be used to provide subsidies for maternity leave and for elderly people needing medical care.

The government estimates the extra spending will boost economic growth by 0.2 percentage point this year, which may raise its 2017 outlook from current 2.6%.

It expects to the extra budget to add 71,000 jobs to the public sector workforce and 15,000 jobs to the private sector.

“This is the first supplement­ary budget for jobs purposes,” Park Chunsup, South Korea’s chief of budget, told a news conference.

“There are concerns over mass job losses...10 years ago youth unemployme­nt used to be double the overall jobless rate of 3.5%, but now it is three times as high,” Park said.

Unemployme­nt among those aged 15-29 soared to 11.2% in April, even though the economy posted the fastest growth in six quarters in the January-March period.

Addressing a widening income gap and sluggish domestic demand is a major challenge for policymake­rs, especially as exports have only just begun to turn around after falling for almost two years.

South Korea’s average disposable household income fell by 1.1% in the fourth quarter, the fastest rate since the 2009 global financial crisis, while private consumptio­n grew just 0.4% in the first quarter — well below overall economic growth at 1.1%.

“Regarding weak consumptio­n, we believe adding jobs will boost income and affect consumptio­n eventually,” Park said.

The supplement­ary budget will add to the 400.5 trillion won budget for 2017 that was approved by the National Assembly late last year.

The government plans to submit its supplement­ary budget proposal to the National Assembly on June 7.

About 8.8 trillion won of the extra budget will be financed by excess tax revenue expected for this year, while another 1.1 trillion won will come from government revenue left over from 2016.

The remaining 1.3 trillion won will be financed from public funds managed by state-owned companies, according to the ministry.

“As we propose this supplement­ary budget, our intention is to best maintain fiscal soundness and we’re not issuing more debt,” budget chief Park said.

Although the proposed extra budget is only for this year, the government is under pressure to raise taxes to sustain expanded welfare programmes and to meet the growing needs of an ageing population.

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