[FOUNTAIN]Head-butting agencies need to get togetherThe Fair Trade Commission said, “We will give advance notice of our legislation, then continue discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Economy.” The Ministry of Finance and Economy said, “We have not yet reached an agreement with the Fair Trade Commission. We will carry out our own plan during the advance notice period.”
On Thursday morning, these two government agencies made conflicting announcements on the same issue, one after the other, in the briefing room of the Gwacheon Government Complex. The Fair Trade Commission went first, announcing a proposal to maintain the restriction on conglomerates’ total investment in their affiliates, and reduce their financial subsidiaries’ voting rights in other jaebeol affiliates.
Then, the Ministry of Finance and Economy responded with a proposal to revise the Indirect Investment Asset Management Business Act. To encourage investment by conglomerates, restrictions on cross-investment would not be applied to private equity funds in which conglomerates are not controlling shareholders.
As one government agency announces that restrictions on corporate investment will be tightened, another says they will be eased. The citizens are confused and cannot trust either party.
Government agencies do not necessarily have to speak with one voice. In fact, the process of fine-tuning opinions can help produce a more reasonable and effective solution. But it was a different story Thursday. As the agencies pursued contradictory measures, they made no effort to consult each other.
A high-ranking finance ministry official said they had to rush the announcement because the new National Assembly convenes in June; the official said the ministry would reach an agreement with the Fair Trade Commission later. An official at the Fair Trade Commission claims its own announcement consisted only of what was already on the administration’s road map for market reform.
The agencies have been working on this issue since April 2003, when they launched a special task force, including academic experts, to prevent dominance of the financial system by industrial capital. By January, they had drafted a timetable for reform. The private equity fund measure has been discussed since late 2003. It wasn’t that the agencies didn’t have time to reach an agreement, but that they were unwilling to persuade each other, or to make concessions.
A recent study by the International Institute for Management Development of Switzerland ranked the Korean government 54th among 60 surveyed countries in policy consistency. The government has showed no sign of responsibility in this matter, and the egocentric ministries are left only with obstinacy.
by Kim Jong-yoon