People Power Party floor leader Kweon Seong-dong (left) talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho during a meeting to discuss details on a supplementary budget at the National Assembly in Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
SEJONG -- The Yoon Suk-yeol administration is moving to offer 6 million won ($4,700) or more per self-employed person in its supplementary budget, as part of the new government’s first policy to compensate those who suffered financial loss from state-led business restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Yoon, who took office on Tuesday, stressed the necessity of implementing a supplementary budget for the support package as promptly as possible while presiding over his first meeting with senior presidential secretaries on Wednesday.
“Without fast support for small merchants and the self-employed, the possibility is high for them to become beneficiaries of (state-led) social welfare payouts,” he said. “This (scenario) would pose a burden on the fiscal status.”
A detailed support scheme was unveiled after a meeting between People Power Party floor leader Kweon Seong-dong and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho at the National Assembly in Seoul earlier in the day.
Kweon told a news briefing that the ruling party called for the government to “provide all of the 3.7 million self-employed people and small merchants with at least 6 million won (per person).” He said the government accepted this.
In particular, even those who did not suffer losses among the self-employed and small merchants will also be paid at least 6 million won, he said.
He added that there would also be “plus alpha (additional payouts) by industry from the minimum 6 million won.”
The move is an evolution of the former plan of the presidential transition team, which had announced that the administration would conduct differentiated payouts by industry.
The transition team has been denounced for breaking an electoral pledge during the presidential campaign, which clarified that it would give righteous, full compensation through a fiscal fund worth more than 50 trillion won.
It is speculated that the People Power Party floor leader and new finance minister have reached a consensus on mapping out a support package in a proactive manner.
Alongside the compensation plan for the self-employed and small merchants, the administration plans to offer 2.25 million low-income and underprivileged households 750,000 to 1 million won per household.
The ruling party also called for the Ministry of Economy and Finance to carry out payouts for several industries -- tourism, air carriers and exhibition and performing arts -- which had been excluded from loss compensation during the previous administration.
The support package could also involve those employed in the agricultural and fisheries industries, which are undergoing a variety of difficulties amid spiraling consumer prices, according to ruling party officials.
The coming extra budget is the second worth 33 trillion won or more this year. In conjunction with the first relief budget passed by the Moon Jae-in administration in the first quarter, the cumulative total of the extra budgets for pandemic relief comes out to over 50 trillion won.
Finance Minister Choo said that the coming supplementary budget is focused on the following directions: “full-fledged compensation, bolstering quarantine efforts and stabilization of consumer prices.”
Stressing that the government has internally mapped out sufficient measures for the self-employed and small merchants, Choo said relevant ministries and agencies have not spared any effort to mobilize various state funds.
The coming extra budget is scheduled to undergo the approval process at the extra Cabinet meeting in Seoul this Thursday, and be submitted to the National Assembly on Friday.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)