[EDITORIALS]Tighter Economic Focus Needed

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[EDITORIALS]Tighter Economic Focus Needed

President Kim Dae-jung's speech on Aug. 15, Liberation Day, was enough to attract public attention since he brought up "reform and reconciliation" as a solution to the recent conflicts in our society. He also stressed that he would emphasize economic recovery during the rest of his administration. He said reforms must go on to make the economy sound and healthy. No Korean will object to that view.

But the government policies Mr. Kim referred in the speech seems to be just an array of pork-barrel spending rather than reality-based politics. Mr. Kim said the government would reduce taxes on wage earners by about 10 percent to stabilize the livelihood of the middle and lower classes. He also said the government target is 2 million new jobs and 200,000 new low-cost rental housing units in the period through 2004.

The welfare of the lower and middle classes is a priority issue for the integration of our country, and the Kim Dae-jung Administration promised those policies in its early days after weathering the 1997-98 foreign exchange crisis. Those polices are the foundation of Mr. Kim's economic plans.

The question is whether the reality of the Korean economy will allow such plans to be realized. We doubt if 200,000 rental homes can be built in three years; from 1998 through the end of this year, only 60,000 units have been built. We also ask whether the reduction of income taxes is a good policy given the weak government finances.

If the opposition charges that these are just pork-barrel spending plans designed for election support next year, the government will have little ammunition to respond. Of course it should try to keep the promises it has already made, but it should not attempt the impossible.

In the later stages of any administration, "selection and concentration" is needed more, because it is impossible for the government to carry out all the policies it wants to. The administration should understand the reality more thoroughly and pick its targets more carefully, because a recovery of the Korean economy depends on thorough restructuring and all the problems that will bring.
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