Reform pension plansA president’s leadership shines most when he or she presents a vision for the future of the country and draws up a consensus. We need leadership to carry out urgent tasks, even though such plans might upset people and give them cause to protest. Leaders must carry out plans with the future in mind.
The reform of the four pension schemes is such a task. These are the national pension program, the pension for civil workers, the pension for soldiers and the pension for private school workers. If these schemes are not revised now, the burden on future generations will be heavy. The pension funds for civil workers and soldiers have already run out and the state budget has to make up the deficits.
The national pension fund will also dry up in 2060. Unless changes are made, looking after senior citizens in our society in the future will be a major challenge. The state budget will shrink and there is likely to be tension between those that need supporting and those burdened with responsibility.
The next president has a grave duty: To deal with this social and financial time bomb. Former administrations were aware of the situation but they chose to ignore the need to reform these pension programs. The political will was lacking.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration claimed it would reform the national pension program, but that promise has been postponed, it would seem, indefinitely. At least the administration identified the problem, even if it hasn’t acted. Politicians know that reforming the pension schemes is not likely to win many votes if their plans go askew.
After four years of deliberation, the political circle finally revised the national pension law in June this year. But the revisions were truly disappointing. The fees remain the same as before, but the benefits were reduced in half so now the fund is likely to dry up in 13 years.
Fixing the pension program is a difficult job, but the next president must push ahead with this laborious task early on in his administration, when he has the most energy for dealing with such reforms.
Even more urgent are problems with the pension programs for civil servants and the military. If the pension programs remain unchanged and subsidized using taxpayers’ money, the government cannot tell the people to share the burden of reforming the national pension program. Soldiers and civil servants are a powerful interest group, so the next president must possess strong will and determination.