The government has unveiled next year’s budget which will be proposed to the National Assembly for approval, and it is 6% lower than this year’s total expenditure, including supplementary budgets. No supplementary budget has yet been established for next year. It is the first time in 13 years that the government’s budget bill has fallen short of its total spending a year earlier. The government said the tightening of the belt was aimed at reducing the burgeoning budget deficit. This is the right direction.
The national debt skyrocketed under President Moon Jaein’s administration. He made no effort to spend sparingly. The debt, which stood at 660 trillion won ($49 billion) in 2017, is expected to reach 1.1 trillion won by the end of this year. Now is the time to cut spending to restore the deteriorated fiscal strength. Reducing expenses is easier said than done. And yet, the Yoon Sukyeol government should try to find unnecessary and non-urgent items and remove them with the ruling and opposition parties.
Central government funding of education is a good example. The Yoon administration earmarked 101.84 trillion won from its 639 trillion won budget bill for next year to the Ministry of Education. This is the first time that the ministry’s budget exceeded 100 trillion won. Of the 100 trillion won, the ministry allocated 82.43 trillion won for kindergarten, primary and secondary education. Under the budget plan, it will guarantee 77.28 trillion won of the amount of statutory funding to district education offices.
The government is required to set aside 20.79% of its total internal revenue unconditionally to finance public education. The Yoon government, which expects next year’s tax revenue to exceed this year’s, has increased funding for compulsory education for next year by 18.8%, or 12.22 trillion. won, compared to this year. On the other hand, it has allocated a total of 12.13 trillion won for university education.
The figure rose only 2%, or 236.5 billion won, from this year. Despite the shrinking school-age population, the ministry increased budget support for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools much faster than that for universities. The Education Funding Program began in 1971 to promote balanced regional development of education. He has played an important role in providing universal education to people including baby boomers.
But over time, she faced the challenges of changing demographics, like a declining birth rate and rapid aging. A significant portion of internal tax revenue ~ total taxpayers’ money excluding tariffs ~ has been allocated each year automatically to fund education, regardless of the number of students. As a result, district education offices and schools, except universities, have money to burn.
The Seoul Education Bureau plans to store up to 73% of the 3.73 trillion won it will receive as part of additional funding from the education budget that comes automatically from the government’s recent supplementary budget . The office apparently decided to put it aside for a rainy day because they couldn’t find where to use the growing pile of funds. The Seoul Council rejected the office’s budget proposal.
Busan and Gwangju education bureaus have reportedly offered to earmark 91% and 69% of their respective additional funding for education from the latest supplementary budget. Obviously, this is a waste of tax revenue. The anachronistic system must be repaired. The National Assembly must find similar unnecessary programs hidden in the budget bill and fix them.
A version of this story appears in the print edition of the September 52022, number.