[FORUM]Cure needed for ill economyA heavy capital gains tax on people who own three or more houses is set to take effect starting from the beginning of next year. There was a difference of opinion between the Blue House and the Ministry of Finance and Economy over the timing of the implementation of the new tax system, but after a long tug of war the Blue House eventually won. Gossip columns of major newspapers featured the economic Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hun-jai tattered.
It seems that a significant number of conservatives, who have watched the progress of the issue, are thinking, “So this is how it all ends. But why is the deputy prime minister and other economy specialists who do not share the same code with the Blue House sticking to their position? The faster they leave their positions, the faster the economy will come to pieces in the hands of reformists, and only then will a proper prescription for the economy be made.”
However the reformists have a different view. “All we are doing is imposing a heavier tax on those who own as many as three houses. So what is the big deal? People with vested interests are too selfish.
Even the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry criticized the rich for protesting against paying a little more capital gains tax. There is something fundamentally wrong with our economy, so we must continue to restructure it without paying attention to unwarrantable complaints of corporations or people of a certain class.”
The two different views remind me of a joke about two doctors who made a patient with a cold get worse and catch pneumonia.
One winter’s day a patient with a cold went to see a doctor and complained that he was sick. The doctor said that there was no medicine for colds, but the patient kept on asking for a prescription.
Finally the doctor advised the patient to run 10 laps around the school field wearing only his underwear. The patient gasped, “Won’t I get pneumonia if I run like that?” The doctor then replied, “Don’t worry. There is no medicine for colds, but there is medicine for pneumonia.”
This patient went to a second doctor. The second doctor examined him and advised the same thing as the first doctor. However, he had a different reason. “Having a cold is not the problem right now. You have symptoms of obesity and geriatric disease, so you need to take care of the fundamental problems. I know it is not easy for you, but let’s start with jogging with your shirt off.”
The Korean economy is a patient. We cannot be sure whether it is a cold, flu or pneumonia, but the fact is that the economy has been sick for the last two years and prospects for next year are also gloomy. It would be irresponsible to say that the economy needs to get bad sooner in order to get better, like the first doctor did.
However we need to keep in mind that if we view the present sickness too lightly and focus only on fundamental reform, this could lead to the destruction of our economy too.
That is to say, without considering the patient’s physical condition, changes in the environment or the doctor’s skill, just insisting on ideological reform has a possibility of making things remain the same or even get worse for the next three years.
The most important thing for the patient might be the warm comforting words of the doctor. Even if the patient does not get an injection of Ringer’s solution or opium, a word of comfort or support can greatly reduce the psychological instability of the patient and end up being a great help in overcoming the illness. I feel that instead of announcing costly counteractions to save the economy, the government should first make an effort to relieve the people’s concern and uncertainty over the economic environment.
It is my hope that all these ugly scenes will end in this year, in which the people and corporations shrank back, divided and took sides, got hostile to and jealous of each other, and even threatened one another. I hope next year will be a year in which we exchange words of warmth and cooperate to melt the frozen economy.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Roh Sung-tae