[EDITORIALS]Look ahead, not back

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[EDITORIALS]Look ahead, not back

How clearly did the three presidential candidates define their economic viewpoints during last night's nationally-televised debate on economic policy? Kwon Young-ghil, a leftist Democratic Labor Party candidate, presented lucid views, calling for the introduction of a wealth tax based on the dichotomy between the rich and the poor. But the two other main contenders, Lee Hoi-chang of the Grand National Party and Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Democratic Party, seemed to have moved closer to each other in their economic policies.

Both presidential hopefuls adopted the strategy of attracting more voters from a broader social strata. Mr. Lee tried to shake his image as a growth-minded candidate, and Mr. Roh as one who puts a priority on income distribution. But voters should make their decisions by reading the big differences in their ideas out of delicate dissimilarities between the two front-runners. Economic policy is, after all, a matter of choice. So, slight distinctions at present will make big differences after a new administration is launched.

In that respect, the biggest difference between the two rivals lies in their fundamental views on the economy. Mr. Lee says that he will enhance transparency in the economy by deregulation. Meanwhile, Mr. Roh vows to achieve economic growth by ensuring management transparency and fairness. Although both contenders say that growth, transparency and deregulation are important, Mr. Lee puts more focus on deregulation, and Mr. Roh on transparency.

Both candidates presented optimistic figures, 6 percent to 7 percent per year for economic growth. But what is important for the next five years is not achieving high economic growth but laying a permanent economic framework so that the country can join the ranks of advanced economies. Re-establishing labor-management relations, handing over the economic leadership to the private sector from the government and reforming the industrial structure for the era of economic openness cannot be easily done in five years. Whoever becomes president can never set right this basic economic framework if he is obsessed with his achievements during his five-year tenure.
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