Gov't Must Stop Blatant Pork-Barrel Politics

      September 23, 2020 13:20

      The government has canceled the promised W20,000 one-off phone bill discount for people aged 35 to 64 (US$1=W1,164). That will save an estimated W500 billion of the original W920 billion in taxpayers' money that was to be handed over to telecoms. Now only young people and the elderly are getting the discount. The change was made after the ruling Minjoo Party accepted demands from the main opposition People Power Party in a tradeoff that allows it to ratify the coronavirus relief payments before Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving starts on Sept. 30.

      But of course now the people who will miss out are complaining. They have good reason. First they were going to be excluded, then they were included, and now they are excluded again. They pay the most taxes and get the least back and must now feel like political footballs. President Moon Jae-in referred to the phone bill discount as "some small consolation" from the government, claiming credit at the expense of taxpayers, but now about half the population will have to remain unconsoled. At the same time there is no good reason for the discount.

      The government's claim that phone bills have gone up in lockdown is not true. On the contrary, data use went down two percent on-year in the second quarter as more people use unlimited subscription packages. In other words, this is pure pork-barrel politics. Instead of apologizing for squandering W400 billion in taxpayers' money on the discount, the head of the ruling party apologized for not being able to dish out more money to everyone. The government has once again politicized every penny to win votes. The public should remain vigilant and not to let the government squander the state coffers.

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