[EDITORIALS]High-speed pork barrelsThe government has set up a basic plan for the construction of a railway for the Honam bullet train, linking Seoul and the Jeolla provinces, which has been controversial. According to the plan, the railway will link the capital to Gwangju, South Jeolla province, in 2015 and to Mokpo on the southwest coast in 2017. The plan includes new stations, which the governing Uri Party promised the residents in the provinces before the May 31 local elections. This pork-barrel approach is the way the government has decided to carry out the large-scale project, which experts say will not be economically efficient.
It is obvious that the project is politically motivated. In fact, President Roh Moo-hyun said last year, “We cannot consider only the economic feasibility of the Honam high-speed railway.” The remark showed that the project is being driven by political intentions rather than economic needs. According to the plan, the government is to pump 200 billion won ($209 million) per year into the railroad company over the next five years. So, the government will pour in our taxpayer money to make up for the deficits of a state-run company, while starting a project that will certainly wind up with a massive debt. Without the government’s large-scale support and a drastic restructuring, Korea Railroad is expected to see its debts increase to 25 trillion won in 2025. Yet it is in this situation that the government is pushing the plan for the Honam high-speed railway.
This paper does not oppose the government’s goal of helping the economy in the Jeolla provinces, which have suffered from a chronic lack of industrial development. But we want the government to find another project that will actually help the residents, after carefully calculating its efficiency and economic feasibility.
The government seems to have forgotten the confusion and waste of the government budgets that resulted from careless projects such as the Saemangeum reclamation and the construction of local airports. The government should not follow these precedents of carelessly launching national projects driven by political interests. The government should delay the plan to build the Honam bullet train railway and review whether to carry on the plan from the ground up.
The residents of the Jeolla provinces also should not be lured by the illusions of a high-speed railway. There will be many other projects that can be done with the same budgets and that will develop the region more efficiently.