[Outlook]Jobs, money and election winners

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[Outlook]Jobs, money and election winners

Reuters ran an interesting article about Kenya.
The African country has 41 ministers and 52 deputy ministers. Why are there so many ministers? What do they do?
The reason is not because there is so much work to do, as the Kenyan government explained. Kenya had a presidential election late last year. But the vote count was discontinued and the sitting president was declared the winner, sparking a conflict between ethnic groups. As a result, more than 1,200 people were killed and 350,000 left their homes and became refugees.
Even the United Nations intervened and the rivals in Kenya made a compromise, which is to share government posts.
The presidential candidate of the opposition party was given the post of prime minister. Two posts for deputy prime minister were created.
The number of ministers was increased and each side took half of them. This is similar to when Korean democratization leaders Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung united their parties in the past, when even a post for telephone operator was shared by people from both sides.
But creating more posts doesn’t come free. It costs a huge amount of money to maintain the post of a minister. The monthly wage for a minister is $16,000. This may not seem like much, but in Kenya, 60 percent of the population earns $1 or less per day.
Each minister is given two cars at his disposal and bodyguards. A prime minister has as many as 45 bodyguards. Costs to maintain the cabinet exceed $1 billion yearly, which accounts for 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
As the budget for the cabinet is not sufficient, the cabinet uses other money allocated for helping refugees, supporting education, medical services and farmers.
In the current 2007-2008 fiscal year, $500 million has already been spent. But a proposal to use an additional $435 million has been submitted to parliament. In the ethnic conflict, only the powerful are taking advantage of looted resources.
Things are not much different in advanced countries. Even in the United States, key members of election campaigns take major posts after winning an election. In some cases, ambassadorship posts are given to those who donated more money than others.
But there must be a limit. People who are employed for political reasons must be differentiated from career civil servants or experts.
The Lee Myung-bak administration is taking resignation letters from executives in public corporations. The administration shook up institutes in the culture and sports sectors first, and then the financial institutes. Now, it is pushing public research centers and science and technology research centers.
The logic is that those who were employed by the previous administration must seek a vote of confidence even though their terms in office remain.
It is understandable that the incumbent administration has problems when those who were employed by the former administration refuse to resign, using their tenure as a shield. If they were deeply involved in the former administration, it is the right thing to share the destiny with the former administration.
A tenure system was introduced to protect senior officials when administrations change, but it can’t protect those who were employed for political reasons.
It is unreasonable, however, to push researchers and scientists who have been studying all their lives to leave.
They were not employed for political reasons. In a democratic country, the administration can’t push them to give up their tenure. Former President Chun Doo Hwan forced 5,490 civil servants and 3,111 workers in public firms to resign, a total of 8,601 jobs.
Such a thing could happen because he staged a coup. But these people were given compensation later, according to court rulings.
There is a reason why the administration nags these people to go home. Many people who worked in the election campaign are now waiting in line to get employed by the administration. People in the government say those who failed to earn party nominations can be employed by public corporations, but not those who lost in the legislative elections.
This means there is a shortage of posts to give all of them. Those who are not employed this time might have to wait until the terms of those now in office end.
All kinds of people flock to election campaigns during election seasons. Celebrities pick politicians to support. Even those who stay out of power and claim that they are the conscience are divided over which presidential candidate to support.
The cultural sector is also in a power struggle. That is because a state budget allocated for the cultural sector is delivered mostly to those who are close to the powerful.
That is no different from the alliance government of Kenya that takes state money originally allocated for refugees.
The relevant laws must be amended to better reflect reality. We must differentiate which posts should be protected by tenure and which posts should not.
A measure should be established to make sure that non-political experts are appointed for certain posts, and that those officials are guaranteed to serve out their terms. For other posts, it is pointless to guarantee their terms on paper. Unqualified people must not be employed in the first place.
Those employed for political reasons must share the fate of the administration.
It is more realistic if the new administration is allowed to decide if those employed by the former administration get a vote of confidence or not.
It doesn’t make sense that the new administration, which was voted in by the people, is so busy clearing up what the former administration has left behind that it can’t carry out the duties it is supposed to.

*The writer is the senior political and international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin-kook
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