SEOUL: The South Korean government entered 2013 without a new budget as lawmakers delayed a vote on what they previously had agreed would be a 342 trillion won ($319.45 billion) spending plan due to a dispute over parts of the bill.
Legislators in the ruling conservative Saenuri Party and the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) sparred over appropriations for the construction of a controversial naval base in Jeju Island as the budget committee was making its final deliberations on the 2013 spending bill.
As a result, lawmakers could not vote on the bill in time to ratify the budget on Monday. Local media said this was the first time parliament failed to set the government's budget before the beginning of its fiscal year on January 1.
The Saenuri Party and the DUP earlier had agreed on the revised budget bill, which is marginally smaller than the 342.5 trillion won budget plan submitted by the government in late September.
It was unclear when a budget vote will take place, though the plenary session finally resumed around 1900 GMT and lawmakers have begun voting on other bills.
Continued political wrangling and the presidential election held earlier this month have delayed ratification. Should the deadlock continue past Tuesday, the government is legally allowed to continue spending money in order to maintain essential government functions.
The revised budget, which has been approved by the budget committee, allocates 28.5 percent of total spending to health, welfare and labour, up marginally from the government's initial proposal and reflecting campaign promises made by Park Geun-hye, a Saenuri Party member and president-elect of South Korea.
The Saenuri Party initially sought up to 6 trillion won to meet campaign pledges leading up to the presidential elections but relented amid government concerns about deficit spending.
With the revised bill, the official fiscal deficit is seen narrowing to 0.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2013 from a projected 1.1 percent deficit in 2012 as initially planned.
Center>Copyright Reuters, 2012