Let me begin the 63rd Cabinet Meeting.
This is going to be the year’s last Cabinet Meeting. The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented crises throughout the year. All the public officials dedicated to overcoming these crises have been working extremely hard. However, our war on COVID-19 has not ended yet, and difficulties still persist in people’s livelihoods. There is also a mountain of tasks to carry out for the country’s future. In the new year of 2021, I urge everyone to put a stronger sense of responsibility and extraordinary commitment into surmounting national crises and enabling the Republic of Korea to leap forward.
The Government is doing everything possible to ensure that both epidemic prevention and the economy succeed. Our pressing goal is to become an exemplary nation equipped with all three elements to prevail over COVID-19 – vaccines and treatments as well as being recognized as a model for infectious disease control. Moreover, securing a fast economic recovery and reducing the inequalities that COVID-19 has widened further are yet another enormous task lying before us.
Amid the crisis, small- and microbusiness owners and the self-employed have been driven to the point where their livelihoods are at stake. Vulnerable populations within the blind spots of the employment and social safety nets are facing even worse financial hardships on a daily basis. We have come to squarely face our society’s issues of inequality as the crisis has revealed stark disparities in labor, caregiving and education.
The Government has mobilized all available means across the board to weather the economic crisis and address inequalities by promptly putting the Emergency Economic Council and Central Economic Response Headquarters into operation.
To date, we have drawn up four supplementary budget proposals and rolled out bold policy responses valued at 310 trillion won, including emergency relief payments distributed to all citizens, a package program to stabilize people’s livelihoods and finances and “new hope funds” for microbusiness owners. Our focus has been on preventing the collapse of people’s lives and the foundation of their economic activities while safeguarding businesses and jobs. We have strengthened the employment and social safety nets, for instance, by providing tailored support for small- and microbusiness owners and the vulnerable and expanding eligibility for employment insurance. We will also implement the employment support program from next year.
As a result, Korea ranks first in terms of the economic growth rate this year among OECD members. In the first half of next year, we will be able to return to a pre-COVID-19 state, achieving the fastest economic rebound. Exports, which are shoring up our economy, continue to show marked increases, and stock prices are breaking record highs every day. In particular, the dynamism of our economy is building up further, as evidenced by the great strides being made by business ventures in the new future industries. All of this represents the hope being nourished by the people and businesses joining forces, backed by government policies.
While cultivating that hope further, we will strive to revive the potential of Korea’s crisis-resilient economy. Our status as an export and manufacturing powerhouse, which has been further bolstered in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, will be utilized as a steppingstone for fast, vigorous economic recovery. We will enhance our country’s standing as a cultural powerhouse and a pace-setter in soft power. By quickening the implementation of the Korean New Deal and the 2050 carbon neutrality goal, we will strengthen our future competitiveness and vigorously push the Republic of Korea’s grand transformation. Our journey toward building an inclusive welfare state will continue unwaveringly by redoubling our efforts to expand safety nets and narrow COVID-19-induced disparities.
The Government has decided to quickly distribute the third round of emergency relief payments worth 9.3 trillion won to safeguard the lives of people in crisis. This customized damage relief countermeasure is intended to protect microbusiness owners and the vulnerable facing the risk of unemployment who are being hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s epidemic prevention and control measures. In particular, 1 million won will be paid to all microbusiness owners and the self-employed who have been hit hard directly. To reduce rent burdens, an additional 1 million or 2 million won will be disbursed depending on the extent of the restrictions placed on a business. Since it is urgent, the payments will be provided swiftly from the beginning of this coming January.
In addition, to further relieve rent burdens for microbusiness owners, low-interest loans will be provided. Incentives for those who participate in Good Landlord Campaign will be expanded, and we will also take measures to ease burdens from electricity bills and various insurance premiums. Microbusiness owners will be offered emergency liquidity, so they can start over and recover. Additional income stabilization subsidies will be given to the contract-based self-employed and freelancers as well as to caregivers and visiting service providers. The Government will mobilize all possible fiscal policy measures to provide subsidies to help businesses maintain employment, expand emergency welfare and relieve burdens from caregiving.
The Government will do all it can to safeguard the lives of the people. I hope that the people will not lose hope and will muster courage even amid these difficult times. Together with our people, we will move vigorously along the path toward surmounting COVID-19, economic recovery and the Republic of Korea’s leap forward.