[EDITORIALS]Time for Roh to deliverPresident Roh Moo-hyun has been in power for exactly three years. Although there are two years left in his term, the actual period he will be able to work is but one year. The campaign for the next presidential election will essentially begin late this year.
It is sometimes more dangerous to descend from a mountaintop than to get to its peak. It will be difficult to start new projects at this juncture, but how he handles the latter part of his administration will go a long way toward determining Mr. Roh’s place in history.
The elections of the last three years have become remarkably cleaner. We are now seeing elections that no longer call for huge spending. With politicians blocked from spending freely, the underground flow of political funds has also stopped. Another achievement is that the voices of the less fortunate draw more attention, and Cold War-era ideologies are being reviewed.
Despite all this, the general public remains critical of the way the current administration runs the nation. In a poll by the JoongAng Ilbo, two out of three respondents said the Roh administration has done a poor job so far. Nine of 10 surveyed pointed to the president and the ruling party as the main culprits for the poor management. With the majority of respondents citing the president’s lack of ability to carry out policies and his poor choice of words and behavior, the argument that this government is amateurish may not simply be politically-charged attacks from opposition parties.
Mr. Roh, in his inauguration speech, said Korea would need new growth engine industries and new strategies for development. However, for the last three years, he has been obsessed with the past. On matters ranging from the lower-than-expected growth and rising unemployment rates to economic polarization, he blamed past governments. What the ruling party should be fighting for is the future, not against the past.
The ideas for a confidence vote, which led to his impeachment, and a coalition government were Mr. Roh’s. He wasted an excessive amount of energy on matters that have very little to do with the day-to-day lives of Korean citizens. His arrogance over ideological purity and moral justification led to a codified world of politics where friendly forces and enemies are clearly divided.
The most pressing need is the creation of jobs. Before he came to power, Mr. Roh promised 500,000 new jobs would be generated annually, but in the last three years, only 680,000 new positions have been created, with most of them being temporary work. For more jobs to be created, Mr. Roh, as he promised in his inauguration address, must loosen regulations and develop growth engines by making Korea more attractive for business owners and foreign investors.
The reform of the national pension scheme can no longer be delayed. If the government does not take decisive action this year, the issue could be pushed back to as late as 2008, given that a general and presidential election are scheduled next year. By then, there will be even more opposition from the recipients of the program, placing more burden on the next administration.
Previous lame duck governments were caused by corruption and an obsession with regaining power. For the remainder of his term, Mr. Roh must apply strict discipline to those around him. He should also manage May’s regional elections and next year’s presidential election with fairness. We hope he will focus his effort on easing people’s livelihoods and improve his words and deeds.