Phone interview: Parliamentary audit of Finance Ministry
The National Assembly's finance committee began auditing the Strategy and Finance Ministry today with a visit to its offices in the administrative city of Sejong, south of Seoul.
The finance committee is the only standing committee carrying out a government inspection on this Wednesday.
Let's now go live to our political correspondent Kim Yeon-ji to find out what issues are on the table.
Hi, Yeon-ji. What are the major points being discussed on this third day of the parliamentary audit?
This week is the first week of a 20-day parliamentary audit of the government, the very first one under the Park Geun-hye administration, and today the Finance Ministry is in the hot seat.
A host of important financial issues are being discussed, including next year's budget, the government's plan to revise tax code, measures to boost the real estate market, and plans to rein in the nation's staggering sovereign debt.
First of all, lawmakers raised concerns about the nation's sovereign debt, which is expected to surpass 9-hundred billion U.S. dollars for the first time ever this year.
In particular, lawmakers said the unethical and corrupt management of state-owned public enterprises must be addressed, along with their inefficiencies, because those are the practices that cause the sovereign debt to increase.
One ruling party lawmaker even reprimanded Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok, who heads the committee for state-owned enterprises, for not doing enough to rein in their unethical practices.
Opposition lawmakers accused the government of not being serious about fulfilling President Park Geun-hye's major campaign pledges, based on an analysis of the government budget for next year.
Ruling party lawmakers, too, demanded the government offer a more detailed plan for how it plans to reduce spending in order to raise enough revenue to fund the president's welfare pledges.
Speaking of the government budget for next year, lawmakers are also grilling the Finance Ministry on the administration's scaled-back pension plan.
What's new on that front?
Citing the nation's shaky fiscal conditions, the government announced a scaled-back basic pension plan for senior citizens 65 and above
That will limit the number of people who will actually get the pension benefits, which will also vary according to the number of years the recipients paid into the National Pension Service.
Another problem is that next year's budget is based on the assumption that the economy will grow by 3.9 percent, which critics say is unrealistically high.
But Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said he feels that figure is pretty accurate and neutral.
Opposition lawmakers do not agree with how the budget was drawn, saying President Park's idea for "welfare without taxation" is fundamentally problematic and that it is sure to do more harm to the nation's fiscal health.
Opposition lawmakers also say the government's real estate policy is only designed to boost home ownership and real estate sales, instead of addressing the lack of affordable housing options for ordinary people.
Back to you, Conn-young.
That was our political correspondent Kim Yeon-ji reporting on today's parliamentary audit of the Finance Ministry.
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