Many countries are "jealous" of South Korea's fiscal soundness, a high-ranking fiscal and budget expert of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Monday, giving credit to the Seoul government for keeping its fiscal position in good shape while attaining economic growth.
"A lot of countries are very jealous over here because (Korea's) debt-to-GDP ratio, approximately 36 percent, is a really very sound fiscal composition," Gerhard Steger, chair of the OECD Working Party of Senior Budget Officials, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Steger came to Seoul to attend a two-day international forum on fiscal issues, which kicked off on Monday. The forum was arranged jointly by the OECD and the Seoul government.
He said economic development is important in maintaining fiscal soundness but noted that the other way around is also no less important given that economic growth fosters trust in a country, which is critical in keeping its fiscal status in good shape.
"The art is to, on one hand, support the economy to grow ... and, on the other hand, to maintain solid fiscal position, and if I remember correctly, Korea is a very good example (in this respect)," he said.
He added that Korea "was one of the very few countries within the OECD, which had a positive growth rate since 2009" when the financial crisis hit the global economy. He added that Korea is an "example" fiscal-management country.
As for controversies over growing welfare spending caused by aging population and a possible hike in tax rates to meet increasing fiscal demand here, he said that it is not an issue unique to Korea but one that many other countries in the world have.
He also supported the Seoul government's efforts to raise necessary money for expanded welfare spending by securing a broader revenue base through streamlining tax codes, reducing tax reductions and exemptions, and bringing the shadow economy into the light, saying that filling the "loopholes" has to come first before raising tax rates.