Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon asked the central government to increase financial support for the city’s provision of childcare service during the cabinet meeting held on June 25 in Cheong Wa Dae (Office of the President) and presided over by President Park Geun Hye.
Expressing his opinion on the government’s reserve fund spending plan for 2013 submitted by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance (Prime Minister Hyun Oh Seok)Mr. Mayor Park Won Soon noted that Seoul Metropolitan Government was made to bear additional burden of 616.6 billion won in 2012 and 721.4 billion won in 2013 out of the annual budget despite the decreasing tax revenue due to the economic recession. According to him, Seoul Metropolitan Government was in a difficult situation since it had to shoulder 80% (compared to 50% borne by other local governments) of childcare expenses.
Regarding the central government’s plan to provide financial support only for local governments that promise to draw up a supplementary budget, including bearing additional financial burden, the Seoul mayor said that it would be impossible for Seoul Metropolitan Government to make up for the shortage of childcare funds through a supplementary budget since his city expects the local tax revenue collected this year to be 250 billion less than that of last year. Thus, Mr. Park Won-soon stressed that the situation required the central government’s magnanimity if Seoul Metropolitan Government were to keep providing support for households’ childcare.
Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon drew attention to the remarks made by Ms. Park Geun Hye at a meeting of Mayors of Metropolises and Provincial Governors held on January 31 this year right before her inauguration as President, i.e., “It is only right for the central government to take responsibility for programs such as childcare.” According to him, the amendment of the Infant Care Act to increase the percentage of national treasury support for childcare should pass the National Assembly soon so that the relevant welfare program can proceed without difficulty.
In an ensuing discussion participated in by the President, Minister Hyun Oh Seok, and Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, Mr. Park Won Soon brought up former Prime Minister Kim Hwang Sik’s promise, i.e., the central government would help expand the childcare program without imposing additional burden on local governments. The Seoul mayor also pointed out that, in 2012, the central government paid 138.1 billion won, and that Seoul Metropolitan Government shouldered 37 billion won for childcare programs.
“It does not make sense to attach a condition such as asking Seoul Metropolitan Government to draw up a supplementary budget in the execution of an annual budget that passed the National Assembly. At present, Seoul Metropolitan Government is unable to draw up a supplementary budget. The practice of asking local governments to bear the financial burden of a program entrusted or initiated by the central government should be stopped once and for all,” Mr. Park Won Soon stated.
In response, President Park Geun-hye reportedly said that the matter should be settled smoothly “in consultation with the agencies concerned.”