President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday called for the National Assembly’s cooperation on next year’s budget, stressing the need to inject funds to promote innovation and peace, and to create a fairer society. In his policy speech at the National Assembly, Moon also urged the parliament to pass bills concerning prosecutorial reform, saying they would help create a fairer and more transparent society.
“Public finances must lead the way to resolve structural problems of our society such as low growth, (economic) polarization, jobs, low birth rates and the aging population,” Moon said, adding that next year’s budget had been drawn up with the aim of creating a society where prosperity is shared through an “innovative, inclusive, fair and peaceful economy.”
President Moon Jae-in addresses the parliament on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The government has asked for a record-high budget of over 513.5 trillion won ($438.7 billion), which would be an increase of 9.3 percent from this year. The budget bill has met with heavy criticism from the opposition bloc, which accuses the government of attempting to sway public opinion ahead of next year’s general elections.
Aware of the criticism, Moon said the government budget must act as a “breakwater” against increasing uncertainties and went on to stress that the country’s finances were stable, citing the International Monetary Fund’s recommendation to boost public spending.
According to Moon, despite the large budget increase, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio will remain under 40 percent.
Stating that the goals of the budget and his proposed tax revisions were innovation, inclusiveness, fairness and peace, Moon went on to list related projects.
Industrial areas that will see increased government investment according to the budget plans include artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and projects designed to lower dependence on imports for key industrial parts and materials.
Government projects aimed at improving fairness and inclusiveness in society include job creation projects, a project to provide housing for young adults and a plan to increase pensions for low-income seniors.
Moon also outlined defense projects such as the development of next-generation submarines and reconnaissance satellite technologies, as well as plans to raise the salaries of conscripted soldiers, saying the country’s defense capabilities must look beyond North Korea.
The president also touched on his idea of a “peace economy,” centering on increased economic cooperation once denuclearization is achieved.
Saying that various views voiced by the people highlighted the public’s demands for fairness and reform, Moon said the government would address unfair conditions in the economy and education, going on to stress the need for prosecutorial reform.
“No organization of power can exist above the people. Wrong investigation customs must be righted to ensure that prosecutorial powers are exercised sternly while respecting human rights,” Moon said.
Saying the government had announced reform measures that could be implemented without revising laws, Moon said further regulations -- such as guidelines for protecting human rights during investigations -- would be introduced within the month.
“I urge (the National Assembly) to quickly process bills related to prosecutorial reform such as the bill (to create a) public official investigation agency and modification of investigative rights,” Moon said, urging the parliament to take “the most important role” in prosecutorial reform.
The proposed public official investigation agency bill would see the establishment of an independent body tasked with investigating crimes involving high-level government officials, as well as individuals with connections to the president.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org