[Outlook]Smooth transition

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[Outlook]Smooth transition

The presidential transition team has poured out policies since the beginning of the year, and now it has finished receiving brief-ings from central government offices. The team is about to look into municipalities. In accordance with laws on the transition of the presidency, after the team completes its job it will write a report on state affairs, which will serve as a basis for forming policies.
When government offices briefed the transition team, some confusion resulted because the transition team was overly eager to do its job. It was not right that the team outlined concrete measures, such as lowering telecommunication fees and oil prices. The transition team is supposed to collect data for the new administration to manage state affairs, not form policies. The team should take its time when forming a framework. It must leave details to the new ministers, and for urgent issues, the team must seek the cooperation of the incumbent administration.
It was wrong to demand that some government agencies carry out the president-elect’s pledges. There is a certain legal process to follow when turning pledges into policies. It is not right to ask ministers in the Roh Moo-hyun administration to follow policies of the Lee Myung-bak administration. This is why the transition team is seen as an “occupation force” among civil servants. Discipline is required for the democratic transition of power to occur.
The transition team will create a basis for policies and that will be a blueprint for the new administration’s vision for state affairs, its policies in many fields and strategies to carry out the policies. The basis for policy has two purposes. First, it provides a guideline for policies for every ministry and the major tasks facing the new administration. Second, it induces understanding and support from the people for carrying out policies.
There are things to take into account when forming a basis for policies. First, the transition team must re-examine whether pledges are legitimate and appropriate, and it must abandon or adjust some pledges if need be.
Second, the interrelations between different policies must be clarified and the team must prioritize policies according to urgency, costs, effect and the people’s interest.
Third, policies should be categorized into those that a single ministry will carry out and those that multiple ministries are involved in, and into short-term and long-term tasks. These different policies must be approached in different ways.
Fourth, when streamlining government offices, it must be done at the minimum required to vitalize the offices’ functions and induce synergy.
Fifth, the transition team must pay particular attention to reforms in government office functions, such as cooperation, mediation, evaluation and management of work, quality and efficiency of services, the structure of organizations and the processes to carry out work.
Finally, expert opinions must be reflected and public opinion must be listened to when forming a basis for policies.
Voters’ thoughts, which were reflected in the presidential election, must be reflected so as to induce the people’s support for policy. Voters wanted the economy to be revitalized, and this doesn’t mean only economic questions such as growth and a distribution of wealth. A social infrastructure for sustainable economic growth is required. For instance, talented students in the sciences flock to medicine, while smart students in humanities and social studies take the national bar examination. This phenomenon creates an imbalance in human resources, which is a growth engine for the economy. The transition team must also address non-economic social infrastructures such as values, the resolution of conflicts and trust in the government.
Voters chose the Grand National Party as the lesser evil to punish the Roh administration’s misrule, so the GNP must not be overly proud of itself. The presidential election campaign was full of negative campaigning, which eclipsed any debates on policy. This intensifies the need for policymakers to pay attention to public opinion when creating polices based on pledges.
As for a cross-Korea canal project, it was hasty for the transition team to form a special committee for the project even before evaluating its validity and checking public opinion. This reminds us of the damage done from the Roh administration’s push to move the capital. If a leader becomes dogmatic, people tend to keep him in check.
The entire nation, not just civil workers, is paying attention to the transition team. The team must abide by the law, draw up a blueprint for the next administration’s policies and reflect public opinion if it wants to create the basis for a successful administration.

*The writer is a professor of public administration at Sungkyunkwan University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Hyun-ku
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