The country's main political parties remained split over the Park Geun-hye administration's proposed supplementary budget bill Sunday, presaging a heavy partisan struggle before the main vote later this month.
The governing Saenuri Party supports the 11.8 trillion won (S$14 billion) extra budget citing the slowing economy. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy backs a smaller budget, saying the proposed bill includes funds unrelated to boosting the economy.
But the parties agree the extra budget bill must be passed this month if it is to boost the struggling economy within the year, suggesting a compromise could come before the final vote on the bill scheduled for later this month, as agreed upon by the parties last week.
"The budget bill needs to be passed within the month for it to have any effect on the economy after the MERS outbreak," NPAD Rep. An Min-suk said. "But that doesn't mean we should give it a cursory review."
The Bank of Korea last Thursday reported the expected growth rate for this year at 2.8 per cent, down from a prediction of 3.1 per cent in April.
Officials here have cited slumping consumer spending that worsened in the recent Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak and droughts that have mostly affected the northern parts of the country as major sources for the lagging growth.
The Park administration announced the supplementary budget bill to provide relief to the affected areas and hospitals.
But critics of the government budget bill have asserted the supplementary spending plan includes money irrelevant to the relief plans and equivocal plans that appear to hint that the bill was hastily written by Finance Ministry officials.
The National Assembly Budget Office reported Sunday that the 400 million won earmarked in the budget for loans to medical centres that treated MERS patients had "unclear" financing plans.
The same report added that 16 spending proposals in the budget bill "seemed difficult to complete this year."
The NPAD also asserts that the ruling party sneaked in spending plans that appear to be aimed at appeasing regional voters ahead of next year's parliamentary elections. The NPAD pointed out the 1.2 trillion won planned for funding 18 roads and 15 railroad construction projects.
The main opposition party charged that 5.6 trillion won, nearly half of the supplementary budget bill, was inserted by Park officials anxious to plug tax revenue shortfalls.
NPAD Rep. Kang Gi-jung, the main opposition party's policy committee chief, said his party would support the government's budget bill if the Park administration offered an apology for the shortfalls and a raise in corporate taxes.
Saenuri Party officials call the main opposition's stance irresponsible, and say Park has no reason to apologise, as the opposition also voted for this year's budget last December.
The budget bill's approval also depends on how the new floor leader for the ruling party will conduct related negotiations with the main opposition.
The Saenuri Party is expected to elect a new whip Tuesday, with Rep. Won Yoo-chul expected to win the spot. Won and running mate Rep. Kim Jung-hoon submitted their application to run Sunday. Kim will serve as the Saenuri Party's policy committee chief if elected.