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Park faces pressure to scale back pledges
Publication Date : 19-01-2013
Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye is facing increasing pressure to rethink her wide-ranging health pledges as concerns escalate over how to finance them.
The presidential transition committee is also reportedly reviewing ways to scale down the health plans.
Apparently displeased about such calls, Park reportedly urged the ruling Saenuri Party members to remain focused.
“It is premature to discuss whether what we pledged during the election is feasible or not. That is the job for after the new government is launched,” Park was quoted as saying in a luncheon yesterday with the local party members who had helped her campaign.
Park had repeatedly emphasised that her welfare promises will not end in a taxation surge. But watchers say the incoming government should either scale down the pledges or choose to increase taxes.
Park, during the election, made 252 pledges which are estimated to cost the government some 134.5 trillion won (US$127.5 billion).
The president-elect has said that the money will come from cutting government spending and minimising tax cuts.
More specifically, Park has vowed to come up with around 71 trillion won by decreasing government spending and some 48 trillion won by downsizing the subjects for tax cuts within the five years of her administration.
In addition to her plan, the ruling Saenuri Party has suggested that they could prepare an additional 53 trillion won by regulating the so-called black market, increasing tax for financial income and reforming the public sector.
The proposals, however, face resistance, with government bodies and even some of the Saenuri Party expressing concern that they could be unrealistic.
An official of the Strategy and Finance Ministry was quoted as saying that much of the government spending is made up of uncontrollable expenditures such as salary.
Moves to curtail tax cuts are also likely to face vehement protest from the subjected taxpayers.
Some Saenuri Party lawmakers have started to indicate possible changes to the pledges.
“It is inappropriate to insist that ‘because they are pledges they should remain intact’ when there is no budget,” Rep. Shim Jae-chul said.
Apparently displeased at such calls, transition committee chairman Kim Yong-joon held a press conference Thursday and retorted that every project of Park was “sincerely put together after considering its workability.” But he did not confirm that none of the projects will be scaled back or scrapped.
Sources said some tweaking of the health care plans are already taking place to scale back the cost.
For instance, the transition team is reportedly considering excluding the cost of hiring personal caretakers in implementing Park’s signature promise to gradually expand health insurance to eventually cover all expenses for patients suffering from cancer, heart and cardiovascular diseases and other rare illnesses.
The committee is also reportedly likely to exclude civil servants, service personnel and teachers from a new pension plan aimed to double the monthly allowance for seniors aged 65 and older.
*US$1= 1058.33 won