S. Korea parliament expected to approve budget Monday

PHOTO: S. Korea parliament expected to approve budget Monday

SEOUL - South Korea's parliament was expected to pass next year's government budget on Monday after slightly expanding welfare spending programmes in line with President-elect Park Geun-hye's campaign pledges.

Media cited officials at the ruling and main opp osition parties as saying they now aimed to put their agreed version up for vote later in the day after winding up debate on minor issues at sub-committee meetings.

The value of the 2013 budget bill is expected to rise to about 342.7 trillion won (S$391 billion) from 342.5 trillion won, but there would be no big change in funding plans, media reports said.

The government's plan is to narrow the official fiscal deficit to 0.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2013 from a projected 1.1 percent deficit in 2012.

The fiscal year begins on Jan. 1 but parliament has often delayed budget approval until after midnight on Dec. 31 due to wrangling between the ruling and opposition parties.

The government had proposed to allocate 28 percent of total spending to health, welfare and labour but Park promised this month to increase welfare spending.

Park, from the ruling conservative Saenuri Party, does not take office until late February.

Technically, the ruling party holds 51.3 percent of the single-chamber National Assembly and can pass the bill alone but wants to reach agreement with the opposition first. The main opposition Democratic United Party holds 42.3 percent.