[EDITORIALS]Good start, but now what?

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[EDITORIALS]Good start, but now what?

The nation's major parties and the government yesterday held a consultative meeting on the national economy and public welfare. Although a one-time meeting cannot address the array of economic issues the nation faces, it is nevertheless a positive development that they did get together.

Economic uncertainty is growing as we reach the end of the year. The slumping U.S. and Japanese economies and shrinking domestic consumption raise concern that exports, Korea's main engine for growth, will slow. Just a month ago, politicians warned of economic uncertainty. The opposition Grand National Party proposed that the National Assembly set up a bipartisan emergency task force. The governing Millennium Democratic Party proposed restarting economic policy consultation meetings between the government and political parties. Looking back, their proposals speak more of a gesture than a true intent to deal with the darkening economic landscape.

Regardless of political timetables, the economy and welfare issues should top the government's agenda. The concerned parties yesterday agreed that the fiscal budget should be passed by the National Assembly's current session and that uncertainties in our economy should be methodically reviewed. That, however, should not mean that the Assembly's review of the budget should be done quickly, because there are other looming issues, such as recovering the public funds spent on economic restructuring in the past several years. Levying capital gains taxes should be done so that homeowners, whose dwelling is not for speculation, are not put at a disadvantage.

Since the onset of the Kim Dae-jung administration, the two major political parties have convened eight times, and established five economic policy councils. At each of these contacts senior officials and politicians pledged bipartisan efforts, which never quite materialized. For the latest consultative meeting to be effective, the agreements reached should be carried out with continuity. The fastest way politicians can contribute to the national economy is to stop partisan fighting and carry out legislative duties.
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