[FOUNTAIN]Does a signal mean a change in direction?After Gamal Abdel Nasser died in October 1970, Anwar Sadat succeeded him as the president of Egypt. When President Sadat’s limousine approached a crossroads, the chauffeur asked which way he should go. The president asked, “Which way would President Nasser have gone?” “Left,” said the chauffeur. Mr. Sadat responded, “Let’s signal left and turn right.”
The event did not actually take place. Forecasting a careful change in policy direction, Western media invented this satiric scene. Directional signals became a metaphor for policy change.
From the beginning of the Sadat administration, the supporters of the late president kept Mr. Sadat in check. Considering the atmosphere, the president appeared to emphasize that he was following Mr. Nasser’s line. The left signal implied Mr. Sadat’s political strategy, assuring opponents that he would continue Mr. Nasser’s way.
But in May 1971, Mr. Sadat arrested his political enemies on charges of attempting a coup d’etat, and began to go his own way. Especially, he took the opposite direction in economic policies. While Mr. Nasser advocated a socialist model of a planned economy, he pursued open markets.
The result was disastrous. Egypt suffered from increasing foreign debt and worsening inflation. On top of the economic chaos, a shortage of food caused riots. The direction toward opening and growth was right, but his unskilled driving brought failure.
As seen in the case of Egypt, the leader’s willpower alone cannot pull off a successful policy change. If a leader wants to change direction without shaking the foundations of power, he needs a highly sophisticated political skill. A leader is expected to demonstrate professionalism and competence to carry out politics. Without these prerequisites, policy change is nothing but a dangerous gamble.
As the government announced an interest rate cut last week, many interpret it as a sign of a policy change. While the situation could develop differently, the government is certainly signaling toward an economic boost and growth. As the public suffers through a slumping economy, the Blue House might want to assure that it is indeed concerned about the economy. But we must wait and see which way the government will actually turn. After all, a signal is nothing but a signal.
by Nam Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.