[EDITORIALS]Real power, or just a sham?President Roh Moo-hyun declared a administrative principle that he will let the prime minister oversee routine operation of the administration. The president will, instead, concentrate on long-term national tasks and major reform projects. If the pledge is implemented, the system of our administration will go through a major change.
Mr. Roh pledged, on several occasions during the 2002 presidential race, “I will delegate some presidential power to the prime minister.” Although his spokesman said, “This is not a responsible prime minister system,” the move is in the right direction. It also conforms with the Constitution that stipulates, “The prime minister shall ....direct the executive ministries under order of the president.”
But the delegation of power should be made in a proper manner. Cheating people by letting the prime minister take charge of public criticism, while actual power is still held by the president, will not work. People have seen many prime ministers whose job was reading speeches on behalf of the president, as well as scarecrow or bullet-proof prime ministers. They have the ability to discern a genuine one from a sham. If it was mere passing words, it will only result in giving hardship to civil servants, forcing them to prepare dual reports unnecessarily.
For the success of the plan, there are a few things that should be done. First, as Mr. Roh pointed out, the president and the prime minister must divide their jobs in detail. If the division is not clear, the results will be manifest. No civil servant would prefer to report to and get orders from the prime minister, skipping over the president.
At the same time, the power of the prime minister’s office should be strengthened in proportion to the power delegated to it. Accordingly, the function of the presidential secretariat should also be readjusted. We must keep in mind that the group that will react to the delegation of power to the prime minister is the close aides to the president and presidential secretaries.
If Mr. Roh’s pledge, “prime minister-centered administration,” is implemented, it will be a major government reform. For the change, cabinet ministers must change their attitude. If their’s changes, then that of civil servants, who watch carefully every move of cabinet members, will also change. When people see the civil servants change, then they start to believe in the change. All in all, the essence of the reform lies in the will of the president.