Today, two outside experts will be joining our discussion: President Lee Kwang-hyung of KAIST and President Kim Tae-man of the Korea Intellectual Property Strategy Agency. Let’s give them a hand to welcome them.
The 34.9 trillion-won second supplementary budget proposal has passed the National Assembly. I would like to express my special gratitude to the Assembly. Following the Government’s submission, National Assembly members cooperated and engaged in deliberations in a nonpartisan manner while taking into account the resurgence of COVID-19. It will be of enormous help to our people who are exhausted and struggling due to COVID-19. The Government will do all it can to disburse the supplementary budget so relevant assistance can swiftly reach those in need.
This supplementary budget focuses on providing intensive support for microbusiness owners’ commercial losses as well as on vaccinations and epidemic prevention and control. It also reflects the Government’s commitment to recovering jobs and stabilizing people’s livelihoods. As part of the effort to provide the most extensive and broadest support for damage sustained by microbusiness owners, those awarded Hope Recovery Funds can receive up to 20 million won, and the range of eligible recipients has also expanded. The funds earmarked for compensating commercial losses stemming from the tightened social distancing levels saw a hike as well. When it comes to relief payments for the general public, the criteria concerning double-income families and single-person households have eased significantly, making it possible for the majority of people to receive 250,000 won each. An additional 100,000 won will be given to the vulnerable. Support funds for mutually beneficial consumption – the credit card cash-back program – were also included in the supplementary budget, so they can be disbursed in a timely manner in step with the anti-epidemic situation. The relief payments this time are not intended for the entire population. At a time when the majority of the people are going through a tough time, struggling to make ends meet, I ask for understanding from those who are relatively better off.
The funds set aside for anti-epidemic responses, including vaccine procurement, inoculations, diagnostic testing, treatment of quarantined patients and deployment of additional medical professionals, have also increased. Along with the support for job recovery, which includes the creation of new jobs, the budget plan also incorporates a wide range of assistance that will bring hope to young people. It is also intended to help revitalize local economies.
Meanwhile, it is very significant that our country’s fiscal soundness has been enhanced as the financial resources for the supplementary budget were prepared without issuing deficit-financing government bonds and surplus tax revenues worth 2 trillion won were used to repay sovereign debts.
Now, it is time for the Government to distribute the supplementary budget. With a top priority on urgently needed damage support for microbusiness owners, I urge you to streamline relevant preparations as much as possible for swift assistance. The funds earmarked for projects related to epidemic prevention and control, such as expanding the number of residential treatment centers and compensating medical institutions for losses, also need to be disbursed quickly.
I ask you to do your utmost to quickly establish a system for emergency relief payments and support funds for mutually beneficial consumption. The best possible preparations are needed so that the people can receive assistance promptly, when they need it most. Countries around the world are making huge fiscal injections to ride out the COVID-19 crisis and are further strengthening the roles and responsibilities of governments. Our Government is no exception. We have significantly increased the budget each year in line with our expansionary fiscal policy. Moreover, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we have enhanced the role of the government in order to surmount the crisis and restore the economy and people’s livelihoods by arranging four supplementary budget plans last year and two this year.
As a result, the Korean economy is recovering faster than that of any other country. Our exports set a new record, and a high economic growth of over 4 percent is expected this year. Our fiscal spending is alleviating the market income inequality that has been exacerbated further by COVID-19, and this has had the effect of improving income distribution. International credit rating agencies have consistently maintained Korea’s high credit rating even amid the COVID-19 crisis and forecast a stable outlook.
However, there is still a long way to a complete recovery. There are also great concerns that COVID-19 will spread again and that social distancing levels will be heightened, which will in turn further postpone the recovery of people’s livelihoods. At a time like this, the Government should play its role as a buttress to safeguard people’s lives more faithfully. I ask you to devote yourselves to achieving an inclusive recovery where everyone can bounce back together. This can be done through thorough epidemic prevention measures, prompt implementation of the supplementary budget, job recovery and reducing disparities. It will also require industrial safety and disaster prevention as well as housing stability and price stabilization measures.
Many meaningful laws related to livelihoods passed the National Assembly this time. The Special Act on Port Safety was passed in response to the death of a worker in the Port of Pyeongtaek-Dangjin. I hope that this will serve as an opportunity to significantly improve industrial safeguards in ports. Laws to eradicate agricultural land speculation, including a revision to the Farmland Act, were also passed. I urge you to speed up the legislation to eradicate real estate speculation still pending in the National Assembly.
The Income Tax Act and the Restriction of Special Taxation Act were also revised to track the incomes of such platform-based employees as designated drivers and quick delivery service workers. This will serve as the foundation to establish an employment safety net and close-knit welfare net for those workers who have been in blind spots when it comes to protections. The Special Act on Responding to an Industrial Crisis, which is to establish a preemptive support system in response to local industrial crises, and the Job Seeker Employment Promotion Act, which allows even young people with work experience to receive job-search funding, are also of great significance.