A Policy of Repeating Fine WordsIn his televised "Dialogue with the People" Thursday, President Kim Dae-jung seemed to emphasize "confidence." He stressed several times, "Now that the frameworks for four-sector reforms have been drawn up, the economy will improve from the second half of this year." During a Friday press conference, economic ministers concurred: "The economy will recover from the second half of this year if we continue to make reform efforts with confidence."
We have no objections to such "confidence." The economy may rally later this year. We should be wary of excessive pessimism as well. What we would like to point out, however, is that the general public's confidence cannot be recovered on the strength of the government's words. The current sense of anxiety derives from the fact that government policies have failed to obtain public confidence. However often the president talks about confidence, his words will remain empty unless the people trust them. What is important is not words but concrete efforts to secure confidence and the attitude to humbly accept criticism and pessimistic views. These aspects seemed lacking in the president's dialogue with the people and the economic ministers' press conference.
The president said, "The banks' autonomy is being guaranteed and it will be perfectly guaranteed in the future as well." As evidence, he noted that the government no longer directs banks to extend loans and that the heads of the banks are chosen internally. Then what is the meaning of favoritism extended to the Hyundai Group ?the loans on the collateral of unsold apartments and the extension of the ceiling for the purchase of export bills of exchange? What about the government's remarks about possibly sanctioning Korea First Bank for not having participated in a swift takeover of corporate bonds?
If the president wanted to guarantee the banks' autonomy, he should not have said, "The banks' outdated custom of clinging to extending loans on collateral and balking at doing so on credit records should be rectified." Banks are to decide on loans as they see fit. It is also worrisome that the announcement of the government's role as "a fair judge and a systems manager" sounds too reckless in the midst of the Daewoo Motor and the Hyundai Group cases.
It will not do to put forth hasty words and prospects. What is more important than words and numbers is for Korea to strengthen its physical constitution.