South Korea's parliament on Saturday passed an 11.03 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) extra budget bill after marathon negotiations over what President Moon Jae-in has promoted as a vital tool to create jobs and prop up economic growth.
|The National Assembly holds a plenary session to vote on an extra budget bill at the legislature's main chamber in Seoul on July 22, 2017. (Yonhap)|
The National Assembly held a floor vote to endorse the bill that includes funds to support drought-hit regions, the disabled, the ailing shipbuilding industry, preparations for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and the installation of air purifiers at elementary schools.
Of the total lawmakers present, 140 approved of the bill, while 31 disapproved with eight abstentions.
The voting was delayed for more than an hour due to the lack of a quorum after the lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) left the parliamentary chamber in a show of opposition.
The approval came a day after major parties, except for the LKP, reached a compromise following a week of grueling talks.
The major bone of contention was the number of public service jobs to be created with taxpayers' money this year. The government initially proposed 12,000 jobs, but opposition parties demanded a sharp cut.
The ruling Democratic Party, People's Party and Bareun Party struck a compromise Friday to use this year's existing reserve budget to create 2,875 central government jobs. The LKP boycotted the final round of talks, demanding the number be lowered to around 1,000.
A parliamentary budget committee later reduced the figure to 2,575 and finalized it.
Since the bill was submitted to the legislature on June 7, the parties had been caught in a deadlock over the government's initial proposal to set aside 8 billion won in the extra budget to create 12,000 jobs.
Opposition parties insisted that the proposal could impose an undue burden on the state, and that it could breach the National Finance Act that stipulates an extra budget can be drawn up only in emergencies such as war, natural disaster, economic recession and massive unemployment.
The impasse was broken when the ruling party gave up the proposal and agreed to use the existing budget for job creation. But the last-minute hurdle emerged when parties wrangled over how many government jobs should be created.
Moon has repeatedly appealed for the bill's approval as part of efforts to deliver on his key election pledge to create 810,000 "quality" jobs in the public sector during his five-year presidency that ends in 2022.
The parliamentary deliberations on the bill began in earnest only last week after a political stalemate over the president's controversial picks for Cabinet ministers, who opposition parties called unfit due to their alleged ethical lapses. (Yonhap)
Kim Su-a firstname.lastname@example.org
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