[EDITORIALS]Coping with uncertainty

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[EDITORIALS]Coping with uncertainty

In general, people say they feel uneasy about the outlook for next year's economic conditions.

The outlook for the global economy, including that of the United States, is not very bright. War clouds are hanging over the Middle East. The North Korean nuclear weapons issue is deadlocked. Threatening ongoing multinational talks for free trade, violent movements against globalization are growing, and the leadership of the United States in the world has weakened.

The domestic economy also has many disturbing trends as we await the arrival of the new administration.

It is extremely difficult to gradually reduce household debt while preventing domestic consumption from suddenly cooling off and to keep the economy on a solid growth path. In addition, China will continue pressing hard on Korea on the international markets.

The transition team of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun will have to consider those conditions and come up with long- and short-term measures to counter the domestic and international uncertainties as it designs the reform program it has pledged. Without taking those factors into account, it will be difficult to reform the economic system here.

So we applaud Mr. Roh and his transition team for their series of comments since last week designed to assure Koreans that the economy is in good hands. Mr. Roh said he would not use artificial short-term measures to boost the economy instead of reiterating his campaign pledge of a 7-percent economic growth this year.

Actually, he had no choice. Seven-percent annual growth is impossible without bad side effects. Mr. Roh also said, "There will be no shocking measures," and that is good, even though it should not even have to be said. Deliberate shocks to the economy should be ruled out ?there are enough unplanned ones to go around.

But Mr. Roh and his transition team should look carefully at why those feelings of uneasiness are abundant in our land.

Mr. Roh's administration should decide on policies on class-action lawsuits by shareholders, maintaining the 25-percent ceiling on conglomerate investments in other companies only after thorough consultations with business leaders. If the administration does that, companies and investors will adapt themselves to the new system.

The feelings of uneasiness about the economy do not arise because economic management is being changed; they come from the doubts that social agreements for sustainable economic development can be made by the new administration, especially on issues like labor-management relations. And they also come from the doubt that the new administration will rationally consider economic conditions such as government finances in setting up social welfare programs.

So the problem is whether the administration will balance the right and the left in accordance with Korea's economic level, a per-capita national income of $10,000. If the new administration shows a sense of balance, the feelings of uneasiness about the economy will be assuaged.

In addition, the new administration is duty-bound to set the Korean economy on a path that will help Korea leap to compete equally with other developed countries and leave China behind. The new administration should lay out a long-term plan for the Korean economy and implement it.

The economy will inevitably be faced with uncertainties. We cannot rid our future of them, but we can make preparations for uncertainty.
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