[OUTLOOK]An economic agenda to growThe legislative election that was held on April 15 ended in victory for Our Open Party. But Our Open Party should not get lost in the joy of victory, it should be circumspect because this victory was not won by its own efforts. Without the impetus of regionalism and the storm of impeachment, it would not have been able to acquire the majority of seats.
Policies were nowhere to be seen in this election, swept away by the raging influences of regionalism and the impeachment. Had policies been present, the failure of government in the past year would have been the biggest factor in deciding the outcome of the election. Our Open Party should do well to remember that although it might have won the majority of seats, it only won 38.3 percent of the proportional representation. The circumstances of this election were brought on by the “reactionary and corrupt” Grand National Party and the “reactionary and regionalist” Millennium Democratic Party. The relatively new Our Open Party won the election because of the mistakes of its two rivals. However, those who win under the influence of temporary circumstances have a high chance of losing under the influence of temporary circumstances. As the controversy over a remark by the former campaign manager of Our Open Party snubbing senior citizens shows, public opinion is a fickle thing that does not forgive any shortcomings or mistakes committed by chance.
Moreover, having acquired the majority of seats, the “participatory government” will have no one else to blame for their failures from now on. Therefore, Our Open Party cannot afford to lose time in being intoxicated by their victory.
Even at this moment, our rival countries in Asia, including China, are advancing and only Korea is regressing. China expects an economic growth rate of 7 percent this year.
Even at this moment, jobs are disappearing around us and the number of unemployed youth and credit delinquents is growing, while small and medium firms are closing down. After the government party won the legislative election, research institutes raised the estimated growth rate for the first quarter of this year to 5 percent. But this is not enough to make up for the low growth rate last year, which crashed to 3.1 percent. If we continue at this rate, we will definitely not see the 6 percent growth rate that the participatory government had promised to achieve within the year.
Therefore, Our Open Party, which is now the governing party and the majority party, should be reborn as a responsible party in charge of this country and the fate of its people. For this, Our Open Party and the participatory government must show the magnanimity of a winner. If the party uses its majority of seats as leverage to implement unreasonable demands or overly progressive reforms, it will bring another bout of national discord and strife.
For the time being, we should leave all tension and disagreements behind to concentrate on saving the economy with a spirit of coexistence and cooperation. If the party creates new jobs and stabilizes the livelihood of the lower-income class, it would naturally win the support of the majority of the people. In order to do so, it must form a structure of linking the growing export sector with investment and consumption.
In order to convince firms to invest, it is not only important to eliminate the uncertainties over government policies, such as those on deregulation and the enhancement of business transparency, but also to close the investigation into the illegal presidential campaign funds at an appropriate level as soon as possible. We must wrap up this unfortunate past from which no one, whether in the ruling or opposition parties including the president, was exempt. We should concentrate instead on establishing laws and systems to ensure that such things do not happen again.
What is more important than short-term efforts to save the economy, however, is for the government to use its remaining four years to lay the foundation for our country to reach the goal of $20,000 in income per capita. It is important to consider the neglected and impoverished people of society, but the government should not let its policies flow into populism.
If the government party abuses its majority of legislative seats to implement egalitarian reforms, that would only harm the national competitiveness and it would be committing a folly that would go down in history. May the government throw away its eager impatience to change all existing order during its term in power and concentrate its abilities on setting the economy of this country on the growth track to become an advanced country. That is the shortcut to helping the poor and impoverished of this country.
* The writer is a professor of economics at Hanyang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Na Seong-lin