SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on the National Assembly today to approve the government’s expansionary budget for next year and cooperate to bring permanent peace with North Korea.
Moon made the appeal in a budget speech, outlining key points and intentions of the government’s 470.5 trillion-won (US$422 billion) spending proposal for next year, a super budget that marks a sharp 9.7 percent rise from this year’s.
The address came amid a grim outlook for Asia’s fourth-largest economy, with the government and economic agencies slashing growth forecasts for next year, the stock market plummeting and the job situation remaining bleak.
"We achieved economic growth of the 3 percent level last year, but we’ve gone back to a 2 percent level growth this year. ... External conditions are not good either. The global economy is going downhill due to the spreading protectionism, trade disputes and hikes in U.S. interest rates," Moon said.
"Therefore, it’s time for the public finances to play more active roles," he said.
Moon also stressed that it’s important to use public finances to deal pre-emptively with risks of economic downturn and tackle jobs, polarization and other problems. International agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, are also recommending expansionary finances, he said.
Moon called for bolstering welfare programmes and social safety nets to realise an "embracing society."
"We have to be a nation where people are at ease within social safety nets and welfare programs, and where fair opportunities and just outcomes are guaranteed," he said. "We have to be a nation where not a single person is discriminated against."
Moon also called for parliamentary support for his peace drive with North Korea, saying the ongoing peace and denuclearization process is an "opportunity that came like a miracle" and should never be missed.
"A second North-US summit is just around the corner. A visit to Russia by Chairman Kim Jong-un and a visit to North Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to take place in the near future. The possibility of a North-Japan summit also remains open. A return visit to Seoul by Chairman Kim Jong-un will also take place soon," he said.
"A historic starting point for co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is just ahead of us," Moon said. "This is an opportunity that came like a miracle. This is an opportunity that we should never miss." – YONHAP