Transition team unhappy with calls to scale back Park’s campaign projects
Published : 2013-01-17 20:16
Updated : 2013-01-17 20:16
The transition team of President-elect Park Geun-hye expressed strong displeasure Thursday over calls for scaling back or scrapping expensive campaign promises, saying every single project was sincerely put together after considering its workability.
“Each of the promises put forward during the presidential election was prepared with sincerity after sufficient discussions on their practicability and the possibility of raising financial resources,” transition committee chief Kim Yong-joon told reporters.
“It confuses the people and is not right to demand that we should not honor campaign promises or claim that the country would be worse off if all promises are kept, at a time when the new government is not launched yet and a review of (campaign promises) is under way,” he said.
Kim unexpectedly took the podium during a spokesman’s regular press briefing.
That underlines an increasing sense in the committee that it should bring the growing calls for changing campaign promises under control or the image of the incoming government would be seriously tarnished even before its launch.
Members of Park’s ruling Saenuri Party have stepped up such demands, voicing concern over whether she will be able to implement all of the welfare and other expensive projects. Experts have also warned that the original cost estimate for the projects is incorrect and the actual amount would be much higher.
Fueling speculation that the incoming government may be seeking an “exit” out of the promises, the committee’s main spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, said Wednesday that the team will look into whether her campaign pledges are “too comprehensive” or “overlap” with each other.
At least 134.5 trillion won ($127.5 billion) is needed over the next five years to implement 252 campaign promises, including providing all senior citizens aged 65 or older with a monthly allowance of 200,000 won regardless of their income level.
What makes the situation worse is that Park wants to raise that money without directly raising tax rates in accordance with another campaign promise.
Ruling party lawmakers, such as Reps. Shim Jae-chul and Chung Mong-joon, have claimed that campaign projects should be modified in a more reasonable way, saying it would amount to wasting taxpayer money, for example, to provide wealthy people like Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee with the senior pension.
Despite the transition team’s commitment, however, chances appear high that the committee will ultimately be forced to scale back some of the campaign projects due mainly to the difficulty of raising money for such projects.
“We will have a review after taking a look at the government’s financing plan,” a committee official said. The finance ministry reported to the team on Sunday that it will come up with a detailed plan before the end of this month on how to bankroll the numerous pledges made.
One of the most criticized projects is the pension promise for senior citizens.
During her campaign, Park pledged to ultimately merge the senior pension into the national pension. This means that the national pension fund, which is operated with premiums from subscribers, could be used for the senior pension project that is supposed to be funded by taxes.
Such a merger is sure to speed up depletion of the national pension fund, and worsen the generational imbalances in national pension benefits. Critics say the national pension scheme was so badly designed from the beginning that younger subscribers will receive much lower benefits than their older counterparts receive now.
“We will use only taxes without using pension premiums from younger people,” Rep. Na Seong-lin of the ruling party said Wednesday on how to fund the senior pension. The remark effectively means that the senior pension system will not be merged into the national pension.
Given this situation, the transition committee could end up scaling back the senior pension in a way that either cuts the amount of monthly allowance in half or limits the scope of beneficiaries.
The team could also revise health care projects, such as one expanding health insurance in phases to cover all costs for treatment of such illnesses as cancer, heart and cardiovascular diseases and other rare and hard-to-treat illnesses.
Currently, 75 percent of the costs are covered for the illnesses.