[EDITORIALS]Regulations jeopardizing zoneIt is disappointing that a plan by a consortium of six leading technology companies ― including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and KT ― to invest in the Incheon free economic zone has dissolved. After a squabble with the Office of Incheon Free Economic Zone over land prices, the deal was nixed. We worry that the free economic zone will be downgraded to a business center without foreign companies.
We have to take this incident seriously for two reasons. The first is that the government has a very narrow view. Secondly, it fails to grasp the demand of the customers due to its anti-market attitude. The government shouldn’t sell land to foreign companies at a bargain price. However, its competitors are other Asian business centers such as Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. It must attract foreign businesses with reasonable land prices. If it only tries to sell land at expensive prices, the project will fail.
Foreign companies feel our government lacks the will to ease regulations. Foreign businesses that planned to invest have said, “To induce industries with high added value, easing regulation must be the first priority.” Nevertheless, our government has offered a tax deduction that may help draw manufacturers. Companies maintain that they will invest if they have a free business environment.
Songdo is already overshadowed by Pudong industrial complex in Shanghai. The plan to create an international-scale hospital complex was first introduced for the Songdo project, but Shanghai has started construction of an even bigger hospital than Songdo. It means that China is starting the race first, while we are bound by regulations. This is the reason people say, “Plans come from Korea first, but it is China that implements them.”
The Office of Incheon Free Economic Zone said that there will be more discussions with foreign businesses. But the only foreign investment so far is that of an American real estate company and a German logistics company. The idea of making Songdo a mecca for knowledge and information-based industries has not been smooth from the onset. If things go this way, the government’s idea to make Korea a hub of Northeast Asia will end. The government must listen to the voice of foreign businesses that crave market-friendly policies and regulatory relief.