[EDITORIALS]It’s the economy, Mr. Roh

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[EDITORIALS]It’s the economy, Mr. Roh

The administration gets a grade of “F” for its economic policy over the past year. Less than 3-percent economic growth, fewer jobs, a 9-percent unemployment rate among young adults and 4 million people blacklisted as credit delinquents are proof enough.
In addition, entrepreneurship is at rock-bottom and investment and consumption are faltering. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider, and inflation and skyrocketing real estate prices cause low-income families to suffer. According to many polls, the people say the economic failures are their biggest concern.
The Korean Economic Association said, “The government failed in reform and the economy.” There is no need to talk further; the economy is worse than it was during the 1997-98 financial crisis.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration’s economic policy has been a series of confusing lurches. The slogans, such as developing Korea into a northeast Asian hub or reaching $20,000 in national income per capita, were brilliant, but nothing has been done so far to make those dreams come true. Mr. Roh’s pro-labor stance intensified tensions between management and labor unions, and inconsistent polices worried both businessmen and the public. Promises to relax regulations were in vain. So investment and the economy slowed and people suffer from unemployment and overdue debts.
The Korean economy is at the crossroads between revival and a crash. Unlike the booming world economy, our economy has lost its way due to excessive regulation, poor management-labor relations and high wages. China already has caught up with Korea in its sovereign debt rating. There are numerous gloomy forecasts that Korea could lose its edge over China even in advanced technologies. If things continue this way, Korea could become a second-class or third-class nation.
President Roh should be aware of that reality. The biggest failure in his first year in office was the economy. Any more mistakes or uncertainties can no longer be tolerated. Reform efforts are impossible without economic success. If a patient dies, surgery is useless. Economics must precede politics or reform.
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