[EDITORIALS]A rush to help the people

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[EDITORIALS]A rush to help the people

The government has unveiled a package of measures to support low and middle-income families. It announced Monday a clutch of major policies, including building 1 million rental apartments, lowering drug prices covered by the national health insurance, cutting mobile phone and electricity rates and increasing tax breaks for the disabled. Since the purpose of the government and its policies is to help people live a better life, the latest measures deserve some credits. The current administration rescued the economy from the Asian economic crisis, but the income gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Therefore, reducing this disparity is a major task for the government.

However, the latest package gives the impression that the government put it together with an eye on regional elections next month, both in terms of the timing and content. The government emphasized that the measures were part of its policies that it makes every six months. But the measures announced six months ago were not as attractive as the most recent ones.

Some of Monday's policies lack funding plans or workability. A typical example is the plan to build 1 million apartment houses for lease. The Ministry of Construction and Transportation announced last month, after reporting it to President Kim Dae-jung, that it would build 500,000 rental apartments over 10 years, starting in 2003. Doubling the target number just one month after its announcement is an indication either that the initial plan was faulty or that the government has another purpose in mind. Moreover, many experts doubt the workability of the plan because of the huge fiscal budget it would entail and problems of securing the land. In addition, the government wants to increase tax breaks. Who will shoulder fiscal deficits, which have been snowballing?

The effects of a policy can be maximized at the least possible cost only when the people fully understand its purpose and substance and cooperate with the government. If helping the low and middle-income families is so important, the government should have done it steadily throughout the year.
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