|President Moon Jae-in gets ready for the G20 virtual summit at Cheong Wa Dae, March 26. Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in is open to good suggestions from the opposition parties on how to get the country out of the grave economic situation it is in, a presidential aide said Sunday.
The remark was in response to a suggestion from main opposition United Future Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn last week for a 40 trillion-won ($32.5 billion) government bond program for small business owners and SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since we are facing a very serious economic situation, our administration will review helpful suggestions from all parties concerned, even if they are from the opposition," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a briefing Sunday.
Moon said last week that he would review the proposal if the UFP provided more details. The presidential office said the UFP has yet to deliver on the President's request for these. "We have not received a more specific proposal yet. We could discuss the establishment of a working-level consultative group on the issue, as proposed by Hwang, if we get more details," a senior presidential aide said.
Moon's rare public reaction to the opposition leader's proposal is seen to reflect the President's determination to set aside politics and work together with the opposition to save the failing economy.
The President has prioritized the economy as businesses and households reel from the impact of COVID-19.
He has been chairing an Emergency Economic Council (EEC) meeting at Cheong Wa Dae every week in order to have swift and effective decision-making on policies needed to help sectors hit by the infectious disease.
One of the economic issues that has been making headlines is whether the central government will provide cash handouts for emergency relief as is the case in the U.S.
There have been mounting calls for the government to take urgent action by establishing the so-called "basic disaster income." But concerns are also rising about the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of such a policy.
The third EEC meeting today is expected to focus on the issue of whether to introduce a disaster income.
President Moon has remained cautious about it, although he has underlined the need to protect the people's livelihoods from falling apart due to the economic difficulties arising from the impact of COVID-19.
Officials from the government, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and Cheong Wa Dae held a meeting Sunday over the basic disaster income proposal to finalize some of the details, such as the size and qualifications for receiving payment.
"During the second economic council meeting, the President mentioned the need to help vulnerable segments of society. As the President has instructed quick decision-making, we are speeding up preparations to make an announcement," the aide said.
Moon introduced his administration's efforts to ease the burden of struggling SMEs and households last week during a video conference with G20 leaders and heads of international organizations last week.
"To ensure that COVID-19 does not lead to serious contractions in consumption, investment and industrial activities, the Korean government is implementing bold expansionary macroeconomic policies and financial stabilization measures totaling $100 billion (132 trillion won)," Moon said.
"First, in order to relieve the burden on affected businesses, micro-business owners and the self-employed, as well as to boost consumption, we prepared an assistance package worth $26 billion. Second, in an effort to support businesses faced with a liquidity shortage due to COVID-19, we are providing emergency funding of $80 billion (100 trillion won). We did this because businesses must survive in order for our people to keep their jobs, and these jobs must be secured for the economy to thrive. My administration is rapidly implementing these measures, and if need be, we will seek other additional measures as well."