[EDITORIALS]An economy in crisisWhile the government has been busy tackling real estate speculation, the overall condition of the economy has drifted into a serious situation. International oil prices have skyrocketed to a record high of $60 per barrel, and growth rate estimates for the Korean economy have been lowered by research institutes both at home and abroad. As various economic indices plummet together, consumers are tightening their purse strings again. The number of job seekers has grown by more than 480,000, raising the unemployment rate to 5.3 percent. Virtually no sector is spared, including investment, consumption, exports, employment and oil prices.
The situation completely contradicts the government’s assurances that the economy will improve in the second half. There is no sign that consumption and investment will revive, and export growth declined a long time ago. If this inert economy is struck by an oil shock, complete catastrophe will be hard to avoid. And there are no policy alternatives left, with financial and budgetary means having been taken to their limits.
Still, those responsible for managing the economy keep their mouths shut. Only the people at the grass roots, who feel the economic hardship, are crying out. This is a natural consequence of the muzzling of those who worried out loud about the economy. No wonder the government’s only reaction to surging oil prices is to consider requiring vehicles to be left unused every 10th day. This is characteristic of a government that thinks credit defaulters will disappear if the credit delinquency system is abolished, and that the economy will get better if people speak optimistically. If the government cannot come up with a proper plan when it is already slipping into the mire, isn’t that an economic crisis in itself?
Fissures are appearing faster than they can be sealed up. Temporary measures won’t do the job. When there are disturbances in overseas variables like oil prices and exchange rates, it is vital that there be no confusion in domestic policy. Now more than ever, we need a consistent, market-friendly policy. This decline can’t be revived by obstinacy or self-righteousness. The government’s economic team should stop behaving like cowards. Instead of studying the Blue House mood, they should say what they must. The first step in overcoming a crisis is recognizing that there is one. The gathering clouds, within our borders and without, are so huge that we can no longer idly sit and watch them.