N.Korean Parliament to Work out Starving State's Budget

Article excerpt

North Korea's rubber stamp parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), was to start meeting Wednesday for a key session to try to hammer out a budget for the starving state.

The meeting will be the first full SPA session since reclusive supreme leader Kim Jong-Il was confirmed as de-facto head of state.

The world's last Stalinist bastion faces multiple problems, ranging from a famine to economic collapse.

Analysts said the session could reveal crucial details of the financial status of the North as it attempts to regain control of the economy by reaffirming its doctrine of central planning.

``It could be very interesting indeed as this is a forum at which reports on the economy will be presented and budgets will be set which may give us some insight into the true state of the economy,'' said a senior expert on North Korea.

``If you are setting budgets and working out econonomic plans, you have to base them on past figures which may prove very revealing,'' he added.

The SPA is expected to debate last year's budget expenditure and hammer out a budget for 1999, officials here said.

Delegates to the Pyongyang meeting will also likely approve bills passed by the SPA's powerful standing committee since September, as well as government personnel changes and a ``new economic plan,'' the South's Yonhap News Agency said.

The assembly is only the second held since since April 1994 -- meetings were suspended after the North's founding leader Kim Il-Sung died in July 1994 -- and the SPA may also debate budgets for the past five years.

``As the SPA did not sit between April 1994 and 1998, it remains to be seen how the assembly will handle the budgets for this period,'' Yonhap said.

``It is also to be seen how the North will fix the budget when the economy is in such a dire situation,'' it added.

One foreign analyst here said the North Korean regime was attempting to ``reinject planning into a shattered planned economy'' by putting the budget at the top of the agenda. …