[NOTEBOOK]Some advice for Roh’s 2nd halfMr. President, you started the second half of your term on Thursday.
During the first half of your term, you ushered in an election season in which candidates did not spend money and in which the collusion between politics and business was broken. Your making neutral the powerful state agencies, including the prosecution and the National Tax Service, is also remarkable.
You have maintained a more resolute stance than any other president in the past on the issues of opening up the country to overseas investment and attracting foreign capital, and have concentrated your efforts on social welfare and distribution. Your efforts to promote balanced national development were also outstanding.
Despite these achievements, you did not avoid a failing grade for the economy. Our economic growth rate has stalled at about 3 percent, and job creation has made little progress. The misery index, which is a numerical expression of the degree of economic pain the public feels and the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates, is at its highest level since 2001.
Considering this happened under a president who pledged to stake his all on the economy, this leaves much to be desired. But you no longer have time to look at the ratings. You have to give the public hope by pouring all your energy in saving the economy.
With the sincerest wish that you will be a “successful economic president,” I would like to suggest several pieces of advice.
First, I hope you will make practical gains a priority in carrying out economic policy. It is particularly urgent to restore investment incentives for businesses. To do so, the government should boost businesses’ confidence. Businesses are reluctant to invest in facilities because the government policies are hard to predict.
Second, please do not make economic policy in the populist manner so often used in politics. Economic policy should be announced after careful consideration of its feasibility and adverse effects. Policies should not be made according to public opinion, because if the most strongly advocated proposal is adopted, handling its consequences would be difficult. I am concerned that the recent real estate measures might run this course. Speculation should be controlled, but careful consideration should be given to innocent victims.
As to investment in the Seoul metropolitan area, rather than being entangled with the justification of balanced national development, it would be better to coolly examine the investment effects and the gains and losses of balanced development.
Economic problems should not be solved with a mindset of a democratic fighter who sticks to slogans. I earnestly ask you not to handle economic policies with “code” politics, in which only you work only with those who share the same political views as you do.
Third, I hope you will coordinate conflicting national goals. For example, trying to revive the economy and promote balanced development at the same time would spoil both attempts. To attract foreign businesses, free economic zones were established, but it hasn’t worked because this goal of attracting foreign investment conflicts with the goal of balanced national development. The same goes for the deregulation of the metropolitan area. An artificially balanced national development is highly likely to fail.
Fourth, you should directly take care of matters on which the future of our country depends. A representative example is the reform of national pension plans. The pension funds will run out unless you promptly reform the structure in which “people pay a little but receive a lot.” The burden will be handed down to pension purchasers and our descendants.
Even though they know well this situation, lawmakers at the National Assembly are not taking active measures, probably because they are thinking of the next election. Mr. President, you should persuade the people and also appeal to lawmakers.
The same applies to the preparation of a roadmap for labor-management relations. How long will you neglect the backward labor practices? There is no news about the roadmap after the government said it would do so if labor, management and the government cannot reach a major deal.
A chairman of a financial institute recently said, “To solve complicated labor-management problems, I have drunk about 2,000 glasses of boilermakers with union members. A substantial number of chief executive officers cannot work properly because of labor-management problems.”
Finally, I would like to suggest listening to the diverse opinions of economic experts. People around me who had been to the Blue House said they got the impression that the president was so confident in every matter and so good at speaking logically that it would not be easy to offer an opposing opinion.
Once in a while, you made extreme remarks that caused you to lose trust in the market. Some good examples are when you said, “As long as the invincible Gangnam is concerned, the president is invincible too” and “I will control real estate speculation even if the world comes to an end.” Did you not say recently, “My speech skills did not seem to have been successful”?
I wrote this letter with an overflowing heart. I appreciate your reading my letter to the end.
* The writer is business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Ui-joon