[EDITORIALS]Don't forget the economy

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[EDITORIALS]Don't forget the economy

As we begin an election year, questions are again being raised about how the economy will be played during the campaign. Concern expressed by the Federation of Korean Industries on Thursday is a good case in point. In the federation's first general meeting of the year, business leaders stressed that economic policy should not be swayed by political logic that puts priority on popularity and votes as the country heads toward gubernatorial and presidential elections.

The business community's concern is, unfortunately, not necessarily groundless. The ruling party has traditionally been criticized for putting a priority on government spending and formulating a policy on votes. The opposition, for its part, tries to benefit from interminable attacks on policy and from scandal-mongering. The opposition cannot escape blame for the sensational scandal-mongering and exposures aimed at reflective gains. The country's economy is inevitably put in the back seat, and it goes without saying that economic activities are affected by that position. A study by the Andong National University economics professor Choi Sung-goan showed that government spending increases discernibly in the five months before an election and drops off sharply in the five months following.

There is a great deal of possibility that a similar situation will be repeated this year. With the presidential election at the end of the year, it is possible some policy measures will be taken only with voters in mind. Critical issues such as the class action suit system, the five-day workweek and the opening of the agricultural market need close and careful attention, but they may be treated irresponsibly.

Another point of concern in an election year is how we look at where the economy is. There is growing optimism, centered primarily on private think tanks, that the cycle has hit bottom and entered an upturn. If that forecast proves correct, then we may look forward to an earlier-than-expected recovery. The optimistic analysis still requires empirical substantiation, however. The need to judge the state of the economy will be more important in this election year when there is bound to be more money going around than usual.
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