The Korea Herald


Yoon pledges to put top priority on stabilizing prices, livelihoods amid global economic challenges

By Yonhap

Published : Oct. 31, 2023 - 09:10

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President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers the 2024 budget speech at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers the 2024 budget speech at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged Tuesday to put the top priority on stabilizing prices and people's livelihoods amid global economic difficulties as he delivered a budget speech centered largely on economic and domestic issues.

Despite such difficulties, Yoon also vowed to stick to a sound fiscal policy next year in order not to pass debts on to future generations, as he called for bipartisan support for passing the government's 657 trillion-won ($487 billion) budget proposal.

"The global economic uncertainty and security threats we are facing call for national and bipartisan unity," Yoon said, citing the global security instability caused by the prolonged war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The 2024 budget proposal is a blueprint for how the government plans to tackle the multiple global challenges and resolve issues affecting people's livelihoods, he said.

"The government will make all-out efforts, with the top priority of all policies being the stabilization of prices and improving people's livelihoods."

Yoon also reiterated his administration's commitment to sound fiscal policies, emphasizing that the plan aims not merely to reduce spending but to efficiently allocate the budget to the right places, avoiding the waste of taxpayers' money.

"Recently, the International Monetary Fund praised South Korea's sound fiscal policies as heading in the right direction, and as a result, international credit rating agencies have considered fiscal soundness as a crucial factor in maintaining our national credit rating," Yoon said.

The president devoted the majority of his speech to explaining individual areas where the budget will be spent, focusing on increased welfare benefits and services for the vulnerable.

Yoon also pointed out that global threats primarily affect socially vulnerable groups, highlighting the government's focus on reducing the burden of basic living costs, including transportation and communication fees.

"(The government) will strengthen efforts to alleviate the burden resulting from the prolonged high-interest rate environment by expanding financial services for low-income individuals," Yoon said.

He further promised support for the younger population seeking jobs and university students from low-income backgrounds.

"Please pay special consideration to ensure that the livelihood support for 1.7 million basic livelihood beneficiaries and national scholarships for 1 million university students and youths are executed," Yoon said.

He emphasized that his government will also focus on creating quality jobs and allocate the budget to secure new growth engines.

Yoon announced that his administration will invest 4.4 trillion won in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity and digital platforms.

Before his speech, Yoon briefly met with opposition leader Lee Jae-myung and other dignitaries in what could lead to the first conversation between the two since Yoon came into office in May 2022.

Lee, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, decided to attend a meeting that Yoon plans to hold with the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, as well as other dignitaries, such as the Supreme Court chief justice.

Details of the meeting, which took about five minutes, were not available immediately.

The meeting is part of an annual parliamentary tradition that precedes the president's visit to parliament for a speech. In 2022, the Democratic Party boycotted Yoon's budget speech, and the meeting did not take place as a result.

Since taking office, Yoon has had only brief encounters with Lee, a former presidential contender against him, at major commemorative events and exchanged greetings and handshakes. But they have never engaged in sit-down talks. (Yonhap)