[EDITORIALS]Pension reform can’t wait

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[EDITORIALS]Pension reform can’t wait

The government’s reform of the public employees’ retirement pension fund is likely to be delayed. Park Myung-jae, the minister for government affairs, said, “I have never promised I would submit a reform proposal to the National Assembly early this year.” He then announced that he would propose the reform bill by the end of this year. This stance is in stark contrast to the ministry’s previous aim of producing a reform bill by the end of 2006, to be passed in early 2007.
Now it’s probable that the bill will not be passed this year, since the presidential election is likely to delay many governmental decisions. The former Government Affairs Minister Lee Yong-sup had emphasized last year the ministry would forge a final version of the bill by the end of 2006. And the ministry had announced it would submit the final bill to the National Assembly in early 2007. But now Mr. Park has reversed the ministry’s stance on the issue, further damaging the agency’s trustworthiness.
Mr. Park said it is important to forge an agreement among everybody who will be affected by the change and such a process will now require more time. Certainly agreement is important, but so is timing. Mr. Park must realize this, knowing it took three years to pass the national pension fund reform bill.
Also, other details of the reform have already been mapped out in the preliminary proposal made jointly by the Korea Development Institute and the committee on pension rule development.
Saying that the details should be reviewed again simply means that the government is unwilling to proceed with reform.
The Government Affairs Ministry has already broken its promise that it would come up with pension reform measures by the end of last year. Now the minister, without even apologizing for having broken the promise, comes up with cheap excuses like, “I have looked through the comments of my predecessor and he never made such a promise.”
A move like this is the reason that the government affairs minister is not trusted to be able to reform itself. If the government really dislikes the current reform bill in progress, the National Assembly may have to come out and devise a new bill.
The Grand National Party even opened a public forum last month on how to reform the public employees’ retirement pension fund. Even Rhyu Si-min, the Health and Welfare Minister, said he would propose another reform bill on the issue later, and there seems to be no reason to stop him.
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