How should the budget structures and financial strategies be shaped to achieve sustainable development, whose goal is to balance the economic, environmental and social development? This question has been one of the major topics for public debate. The most discussed solution is to arrange better welfare services and increase the government funding for them. However, much homework still needs to be done since it does not incorporate economic growth and environmental preservation into the equation.

Limits - Growth as Panacea

Roh Moo-hyun administration once published ‘Vision 2030’, a report on the estimated cost of creating a better world in 2006. According to this report, increasing the level of welfare services up to the OECD average would require more than one quadrillion won in addition to the current budget. This naturally led to a heated political controversy. Unfortunately, politicians turned ignorant toward the report and no further discussions took place, such as on methods of procuring necessary resources such as tax increases or the issuance of national bonds.

The Sustainable Development Commission under the Roh administration has expressed its concerns that this report focused only on the balancing of economic and social development without considering the environment and related policies. The report was a mere confirmation of the high cost of achieving balanced sustainable development. Regardless, the debate boils down to one question: Should we modify the initial goals, or instead find ways to get the resources?

Evidences have proven that the society cannot continue believing that economic growth is the solution to everything. For example, Korean national income has been on the rise while social polarization has been worsened. Studies show that the average quality of life in South Korea hovers around the 27th place among 39 OECD countries. People are directly affected by the environmental crises that economic growth cannot solve - the massive earthquake, tsunami, and resulting Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster that occurred in neighboring Japan demonstrated human helplessness in facing the tremendous power of nature. Stock markets plummeted around the world while the market and petroleum prices skyrocketed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that started in the United States. The long-lasting financial crises in the United States and Europe have jeopardized people’s belief in economic growth.

As a result, even the current South Korean government who self-professes as "business-friendly administration” has been under the pressure of promoting shared growth and common prosperity. In his last Independence Day address, President Lee Myung-bak presented a new goal of governance: Eco-systemic Development. Critics claim that the address presented the people’s dire demand for mutual prosperity and the pressure of satisfying the demand that the government feels. Lee has been emphasizing the implementation of social responsibilities for corporations, especially the responsibility to contribute in the achievement of Eco-systemic Development. In response, corporations have been trying to analyze the meaning of Eco-systematic development and come up with initiatives. What roles should the government and citizens play in achieving Ecosystemic Development? Here, the question of money rears its head again. 

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