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Korea plans massive supplementary budget for COVID-19

Government and ruling Democratic Party officials including Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (second from left) hold a meeting on the supplementary budget on Monday. Yonhap
Government and ruling Democratic Party officials including Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (second from left) hold a meeting on the supplementary budget on Monday. Yonhap

The government and ruling Democratic Party of Korea have decided to draw up a supplementary budget of over 6.2 trillion won ($5.2 billion) and submit the plans to the National Assembly on Thursday.

The exact scale of the supplementary budget has not been determined, but the two sides agreed it needs to be larger than that allocated in response to the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2015, the ruling party said.

At the time, a supplementary budget of 6.2 trillion won was drawn up to deal with the outbreak and its economic effects.

“An expenditure budget that exceeds the supplementary budget during the 2015 MERS crisis will be drawn up,” the Democratic Party’s policy chief Rep. Cho Jeong-sik said.

“The (supplementary budget) will be processed as quickly as possible to allow for an announcement at the plenary session on Feb. 5.”

The supplementary budget will be used to secure negative-pressure hospital rooms and ambulances, as well as testing equipment. It will also include compensation for hospitals that have sustained financial losses due to the government’s COVID-19 related measures, and subsidies for those hospitalized and quarantined.

The budget will also be used to support small and medium-sized enterprises.

The government plans to provide financial support for businesses forced to temporarily close after being visited by those later confirmed as COVID-19 patients. Other measures are aimed at boosting spending.

The government and ruling party also agreed to set aside a budget for supporting SMEs and merchants in the Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province area, and for improving medical infrastructure in the region.

Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak, accounting for about 90 percent of South Korea’s cases as of Sunday midnight. As of Monday late afternoon, there were 4,335 confirmed cases nationwide.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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