[EDITORIALS]Focus on the economy

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[EDITORIALS]Focus on the economy

Korea’s Commerce Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would actively reflect local companies’ opinions in its policies on major economic issues, such as tax breaks, interest rate policies and the limit on major conglomerates’ investments in other companies. During a discussion forum with local entrepreneurs, Mr. Chung also said that economic policies would be “geared towards reviving the real economy.”
The minister’s intention to reflect local companies’ opinions in his economic policies is quite understandable. But there are things under his jurisdiction and things that are not, not matter how powerful Mr. Chung is. For instance, the interest rate is determined by the Bank of Korea. And the limit on major conglomerates’ investments in other firms comes under the jurisdiction of the Fair Trade Commission. Also, any decision over tax breaks is made by the Finance Ministry.
The economic issues in question are highly controversial ones, on which each government agency has a different stance. If the commerce minister says he supports local firms on these issues and backs off later, it will only create further chaos in the market.
Kim Geun-tae, the Uri Party chairman, recently said he would abolish the limit on major conglomerates’ investments in other firms. But that stance was quickly rebuffed by Finance Minister Kwon Oh-kyu, who said Mr. Kim’s comment was only a “political move” and abolishing the policy needed “more discussion.” No wonder private sector entrepreneurs are complaining that government officials’ comments have no reliability.
The issue is whether the current administration has the clear intent to control the macro-level direction of economic policies. The ruling party members and each ministry express varied opinions on each issue, further increasing confusion among the public. In such a chaotic situation, there has been no news heard of government officials and politicians meeting to streamline their opinions. I wonder what the finance minister and the ruling party’s policy committees are doing, leaving such crucial homework undone.
In the meantime, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, while job creation is slowing down. However, it’s not too late. The government should centralize communication over economic policies with the Finance Ministry. Government officials and lawmakers should also roll up their sleeves and think about better ways to revive the economy, leaving their oh-so-precious partisanship aside.
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