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Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 10:19

S Korea proposes US$8.4b extra budget shield

By Reuters

S Korea proposes US$8.4b extra budget shield
Cosmetic sales clerks walk with discount sale signs at a shopping district in Seoul, South Korea, June 9, 2016. (AP Photo / Ahn Yo ung-joon)

SEJONG, South Korea - South Korea will propose a supplementary budget of around 10 trillion won (US$8.44 billion) to parliament soon, the government said on Tuesday, as it manages Brexit turmoil in financial markets, weak exports, and a corporate overhaul of the country's shipping and shipbuilding industries.

The funds for the extra budget will mostly use a surplus in tax revenue for the first half of the year. The finance ministry will not be sell more treasury bonds to raise the funds to avoid running up additional government debt.

Lee Hoseung, director general of the economic policy bureau at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance announced the government's policies for the second half of the year in an embargoed briefing, which included the extra budget plans.

"We saw very bad growth in January and February due to financial jitters from China on top of North Korea's missile launches and a nuclear test," he said. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is also known as North Korea.

"March was better on many terms...but we feel activity in the private sector is still lacking."

Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said last week a supplementary budget would have to be ratified before mid-July to have maximum effect. Lawmakers in both ruling and opposition parties favour the extra budget.

Reflecting worsened conditions inside and outside the country, the finance ministry lowered its growth forecast for this year to 2.8 percent from the 3.1 percent projected in December last year.

Inflation for 2016 was also downgraded to 1.1 percent from 1.5 percent forecast previously.

The extra budget comes as the latest buffer against possible fallout from the corporate restructuring of the country's struggling shipping and shipbuilding firms. Earlier this month, the government and central bank said they would create an 11 trillion won fund to support two state-run banks most exposed to these industries.

The government will launch massive discount sales campaign nationwide again this year after consumption improved on a similar scheme late last year.

All government policies will be reassessed to boost employment. Ministries will be evaluated on their effectiveness in creating jobs.

Lee noted global financial markets were reacting more sensitively to political events around the world. He saw a danger of volatility spiking again when Italy holds its own referendum regarding constitutional reforms in October and from the US presidential election on Nov 8.

To keep capital flows from rocking the economy, the government said it will continue with plans to ease the cap on the foreign currency forward positions local banks can hold from 40 percent from the current 30 percent starting July.

It will also pass an amendment in Sept to temporarily lower an existing levy on foreign exchange borrowings by banks, securities firms, creditors and insurance companies. The levy aims to reduce sudden volatility in markets.

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