Downsize secretariatThe presidential transition committee has decided to downsize the Blue House. In the light of the team’s vision of a small and effective government, that is the right step to take. What is more important, however, is effective management. The incoming Lee Myung-bak administration should avoid the mistakes of the previous administrations and clarify the functions and duties of the presidential secretaries.
The office of secretary to the president is designed to coordinate communications between the president and the executive branches. Policy planning should only be a minimal part of the secretary’s duties. The chief of staff must not come to the fore of government. Likewise, the senior secretary to the president for economic policy must not exert an overwhelming influence on economic policies. Nor should the senior secretary for national policy loom large over the party and the National Assembly.
When the secretary’s office becomes the center of attention, one fears that the structure of the government is being distorted.
In times of authoritarian rule, the Blue House was the supreme power over the government and the ruling party. Even during the Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung administrations, there was legacy of unofficial interference by the secretaries of policy affairs. The president’s office of protocol usurped profits as a gatekeeper. In the meantime, the policy and public relations secretary pressured the media to bridle them.
During the Roh Moo-hyun government, the number of Blue House staff members increased from some 400 to 530. Generation 386 was the main pool of secretaries and policy counsel for the president. Indeed, the Blue House 386s were the private legion of the president. The chief of staff propagated the propensities of the Roh government. The secretaries were the microphones of the regime.
The prime minister’s office grew irrationally big, especially during Lee Hae-chan’s service as prime minister.
New positions equal to vice-minister and other top offices were created almost every day. In due course, the number of staff increased from 400 to 650, growing bigger than the Blue House.
The secretaries to the president and the prime minister basically support the frontline offices of the government.
Planning and auditing must take place quietly.
If you want to run and you want to train, make your legs and arms strong instead of having an oversized head.