[FORUM]Clearly communicate policy goalsThe Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Information and Communication gave business reports for this year to the president. These three ministries are responsible for micro-economic policy.
President Roh Moo-hyun promoted the minister of science and technology to deputy prime minister and made the Ministry of Science and Technology responsible for micro-economic policy so as to balance macro-economic policy ministries led by the Ministry of Finance and Economy. For this purpose, President Roh selected people from related ministries and launched the Science and Technology Innovation Center. He gave more power to presidential aides for science and technology.
The lineup of lawmakers closest to the president at the standing committee of the National Assembly that deals with micro-economic policies has to do with the president’s will to put emphasis on the micro-economy. Now, technological and industrial policies seem to be unprecedentedly in an equal position with fiscal and financial policies.
This is to say that hardware is now equipped to lead the micro-economic policy. The problem is how to operate software, i.e. operating systems with which each ministry can implement their policies in harmony. So the industrial, science and technology circles watched the business reports of the three ministries more carefully than ever. Regrettably, their responses were lukewarm. It was like saying, “Many different dishes are on the table, but we don’t know what to eat first.” This means that probably because of their over-enthusiasm in the process of preparation for a long time, their policies were not put in order clearly.
The three ministries’ business plans may have reflected their ministers’ philosophy in their own way. Oh Myung, deputy prime minister and minister of science and technology, seems to be obsessed with the idea of sending a Korean astronaut into space for the first time and the utilization of large-scale research and development projects. Information and Communication Minister Jin Dae-je keeps upgrading “IT 839 projects,” i.e. projects of eight services and three communications infrastructure and nine technology development projects, which received great praise last year from the president as noted by his usual opinion that “my greatest customer is the president.” Commerce, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Hee-beom, who advocated “Realization of advanced industrial power,” contained every project in a basket called “main targets.”
The government has set job creation, promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and balanced regional development as its three biggest tasks. Across the nation, nearly one million people are unemployed, and 430,000 of them comprise workers aged 15 to 29.
The fact that unemployment causes social unrest is well-known. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which have been a strong foundation for the creation of jobs, have waited for help from the government since the devastating economic crisis of 1997 and the recession in the information technology industry. As the talk of balanced regional development has been dragged into all kinds of political argument that it has become indistinguishable to tell which is truly for the development of their regions.
The Ministries of Science and Technology, Commerce, Industry and Energy, and Information and Communication are the core government agencies that should solve the three major tasks.
Their business reports actually contained solutions. But the solutions were scattered throughout their lengthy reports, and their main points were not communicated well. It was also hard to find a keen sense of urgency and necessity, the driving force for the policies.
The success or failure of policy depends on the timing and acceptance. Policies that the people, final consumers, want should be supplied at a time when it is acceptable to them. It was a good discovery of themes like sending an astronaut into space, creating U-Korea, or ubiquitous Korea, and hydrogen economy that gave dreams and visions to us, but they were not projects that should be given priority to at this point.
In this regard, it would have been better if the deputy prime minister of science and technology as the head of micro-economic policy had strongly proclaimed solutions to the three major tasks, including job creation, through his comprehensive reports.
It could have been a good opportunity to show that his scope of action was never narrow and he had the power to grasp the three ministries. Rome was not built in a day but the deputy prime minister of science and technology should combine science and technology policy with the one for new industries from now on, and show insight and capability in implementing them as a part of economic policy.
* The writer is the deputy director of the JoongAng Ilbo Economic Research Institute.
by Kwak Jae-won