Doubts remain on proposed railway funding plans

2024.01.26 14:09:01 | 2024.01.26 15:55:29

[Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

[Photo by Yonhap]

South Korean lawmakers passed a special law on an inland railway construction project connecting Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province and Gwangju, South Jeolla Province on Thursday in a bipartisan move. But critics of the bill are concerned about lack of evidence for its feasibility.

The contentious national ‘Moonlight Railway’ project will cost 6 trillion won ($4.4 billion), mostly from state funds, raising concerns about its feasibility and legitimacy. Despite the government’s opposition to the bill, citing low feasibility, as many as 261 lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties unanimously passed the bill by removing a mandated provision requiring the government to conduct feasibility studies for the project.

For its part, the government has unveiled a package of bold measures, including constructing high-speed railway commuters in county cities and putting certain highways underground, in response to widespread traffic issues across the country. While these measures might be necessary, the entire package comes with a hefty estimated cost of 134 trillion won.

Critics argue the problem lies in the lack of funds. Korea’s state debt is on track to hit 1157 trillion won. National tax revenue from January to November 2023 was 324 trillion won, with a decrease of 49.4 trillion won from the same period a year earlier.

Embarking on railroad construction plans without a stable financial strategy, particularly amid a substantial downturn in tax revenues, risks putting future generations into more debt. The need for careful consideration and a well-thought-out financial approach is paramount to avoid adverse consequences for both the current and upcoming generations.

By Editorial Team

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