[Meanwhile] ‘No work, no pay’ for lawmakers, too

2023. 3. 22. 19:59
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Even while the legislature is sitting on its hands, the lawmakers are getting paid each month.

SOHN HAE-YONGThe author is the economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo. Korean lawmakers get some of the best treatments in the world. Last year, each member of the National Assembly was paid 154.26 million won ($117,900) before taxes, including salary and activity allowance. In terms of per capita GDP, Japan and Italy are the only countries that give higher salaries to lawmakers than their Korean counterparts.

On top of that, lawmakers are provided with extra expenses, including business expenses, gasoline subsidies and trip expenses. Each lawmaker has nine aids. All together, one lawmaker costs 756 million won a year. The money is deposited into the account of lawmakers every month even if they do not engage in parliamentary activities. It is entirely paid by taxpayers’ money.

Though lawmakers are paid a salary equivalent to the labor cost of a good medium-sized business, their productivity is very low. The approval rate of bills proposed in the 21st National Assembly is 11 percent as of March 21, even lower than the 15 percent of the 20th Assembly, which is considered the worst.

It means that our lawmakers are pressured by voters to propose bills, but a number of bills are scrapped — and not even discussed — due to their similarities. In January and February, only three of 17 Standing Committees abided by the so-called “Working National Assembly Act” clause which requires them to hold at least three bill review subcommittee meetings a month.

The reason is clear. The lawmakers don’t do what they are supposed to do and instead are engrossed in battling with their counterparts to lead the legislature. Many of the bills directly related to people’s livelihood are sleeping in the National Assembly. Even the bills with little discrepancy between parties cannot get through, including the Basic Act on Disaster and Safety Management to support small business owners affected by disasters; the Housing Lease Protection Act to prevent lease fraud; the Wage Bond Guarantee Act that allows business owners to apply for government loans to pay their wages; the Stalking Punishment Act, which removes the clause on no indictment if the victim does not want to proceed with punishment; and the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.

The “Basic Supply Chain Act” to strengthen economic security in response to the global supply chain reshuffle and the fiscal guidelines to help strengthen the government’s fiscal health also are stalled. These are laws that can enhance Korea’s competitiveness and lessen the burden for the future generation, but they are still pending in the legislature.

The opposition parties are against various measures aimed at easing real estate regulations such as the abolition of the actual residency in newly built apartments.

Not only households but also businesses are suffering from soaring prices, loan interest rates, trade deficits and the real estate slump. But the National Assembly seems to not hear the sighs of the economic players suffering from complex economic crises.

Even while the legislature is sitting on its hands, the lawmakers are getting paid each month. It is urgent we apply the principle of “no work, no wage” to the lawmakers. As other fields of Korea are competing with advanced countries, I wonder if there is any place in standstill other than the legislature.

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