[EDITORIALS]Don’t tell stories, take actionDespite an overall slowdown in economic growth, including a slump in the construction sector, both consumer sentiment and spending are expected to rise next year thanks to the stabilization of international oil prices.
This was the forecast given by Kwon O-kyu, the deputy prime minister and minister of finance and economy, last week when he visited Singapore for an annual gathering of International Monetary Fund and World Bank leaders. Mr. Kwon’s forecast that the economy will get worse but that living conditions will get better is almost a perfect contradiction of President Roh Moo-hyun’s claim that the economy is good but living conditions are down. While the perspective of seeing the economy and living conditions as two separate things is problematic in itself, it is also surprising how fickle our policy makers can be in their interpretation of the economy.
When the economic indexes climbed, the government claimed the economy was good but consumer sentiment was down due to the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Now that economic growth rate is going down, the government is claiming consumer sentiment will improve, in spite of the declining indexes.
In 2005, the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s White Paper on the economy was a self-exalting piece boasting that the economy had finally lifted off from the low-growth doldrums into a higher orbit. All blame for faltering consumer sentiment was laid on the “rich-poor gap.” Unfortunately, the actual growth rate has yet to catch up with the potential growth rate and the economic slowdown has continued ever since this government took charge. With our economy losing momentum, could the favorable turn in external factors such as the won-dollar exchange rate and oil prices boost our consumer spending? Or will the rich-poor gap in our society suddenly disappear next year?
What we want from our new deputy prime minister and minister of finance and economy are not interpretations, but implementation. Don’t tell us stories of how the economy is moving. Instead, show us measures that will make the economy move in the right direction.