[EDITORIALS]Reform state agencies

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[EDITORIALS]Reform state agencies

The irresponsible management rampant at state-run organizations and public corporations must be looked at closely. What is needed is a dramatic cutback in the scale of operations and an adjustment of their functions. The current administration has failed, despite a vow of reform early in its term.

There would be no concern about the merits of public corporations and state agencies if they fulfilled their roles as pseudo-government organizations serving the interest of the public. But not only are there many of these entities whose functions and roles are unclear but also there is a lack of transparency in how they are operated. There are questions about the exact number of these organizations, with the only official data being the report prepared by the presidential transition team in 1998 that put the number at 191 employing about 55,000 people. When the number of public corporations is added, the number grows to 552 organizations with 386,000 employees. Their combined annual budget is 143 trillion won ($121 billion). In other words, they are even bigger and spend more than the government itself.

State-run organizations have been established by law and have protection from private-sector competition in providing services. The government, whose role should be to encourage competition, is behind the protection, making it that much harder for the public to access quality service at affordable costs. The organizations are also supported by the various pseudo-taxes that private corporations are required to pay regularly, acting as a drag on the businesses. It is outrageous, under these circumstances, that some of the state organizations are planning to expand amid the confusion of the end of this administration's term.

The starting point for future reform should be compiling a white paper on just how many organizations are employing how many people and spending how much money. Reform is meaningless without an understanding about what is to be reformed. The organizations themselves must undertake internal reform so that they can lessen the financial burden they put on the private sector through excessive fees.
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