The government is again pushing for a스포츠토토 “total cut in the local currency budget” that failed in the National Assembly last year. With the ruling Democratic Party of Korea advocating for the local currency project, dubbed the “Lee Jae-myung-pyo budget,” there is a possibility that it could be revived during the National Assembly debate process as it was last year.

According to the relevant ministries on Friday, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety excluded the local love voucher project when it submitted its 2024 budget request to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance on March 31. The ministry receives the following year’s budget requests from ministries in late May each year and finalizes the government budget in late August after deliberations. It is not uncommon for budget projects scrapped by ministries to be revived during the ministry’s deliberations.

The local love voucher program, which is commonly used as a local currency, is a system that gives consumers a portion of their purchase price back when they spend it at a merchant within a local government (municipality). For example, ‘Yeominjeon’, the local currency of Sejong, refunds 7% of the payment amount. It was first introduced by Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung when he was mayor of Seongnam to protect local small businesses, and became known as the Lee Jae-myung-pyo budget.

Graphic by Kim Dae-hoon

The government began supporting the local currency program, which local governments used to implement with their own budgets, in 2018, but only in areas with employment crises, such as Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do. The amount of state support (main budget + supplementary budget), which was only 10 billion won in 2018, increased significantly to 629.8 billion won in 2020, 1.252 trillion won in 2021, and 705.3 billion won in 2022, as the self-employment economy turned off due to COVID-19. During this period, most local governments reimbursed up to 10 percent of purchases with 50 percent government funding and 50 percent of their own budgets.

However, in August last year, the government decided to cut the budget for local currencies altogether while drafting this year’s budget. The government argued that local currencies were originally funded by local governments’ budgets, and that the rationale for supporting them, which is to increase the income of self-employed people through increased consumption, has weakened as the COVID-19 pandemic has lifted.

Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, speaks at a meeting to secure a budget for local currencies at the National Assembly’s representative office on Nov. 17, 2022. Yonhap

The government plans to end state support for local currencies this year for the same reason. As the COVID-19 pandemic has become endemic, the government believes that state funding has become even less convincing. “State support for local currencies was a temporary measure during COVID-19, so there is no reason to provide it now,” a government official said.

A clash between the ruling and opposition parties seems inevitable during the year-end parliamentary session, when the budget and tax law amendment bills will be debated over cutting the local currency budget entirely. Only last year, the Democratic Party reacted against the scrapping of the local currency, calling it an “unfair budget,” and eventually revived half of the 2022 budget, 352.5 billion won. The Democratic Party went further and introduced a bill in March this year that would require the central government to support the local currency budget.

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