Serve the public

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Serve the public

The opposition parties responded to President Lee Myung-bak’s budget speech with jeers and criticism. This was to be expected.

The role of opposition parties is to offer healthy criticism about the government and the ruling party’s policies, and the president’s speech was far from impressive.

Lee should have taken this occasion as a golden opportunity to offer his sincere apology for errors made so far. And he should have sought the public’s trust by mapping out how to tackle the bumpy ride ahead.

Nevertheless, the opposition parties may not be able to afford the luxury of just sitting back and criticizing the government yet again, especially given the gravity of the looming economic crisis.

In a meeting on Oct. 21, the opposition Democratic Party promised bipartisan cooperation to tackle the economic crisis. But the agreement did not stop opposition lawmakers from expressing sharply divided opinions.

For instance, hard-liners strongly condemned party leaders for striking the agreement with the ruling party. The National Assembly’s finance committee members wasted precious time on Monday quarreling about the budget data provided by local state-run financial companies and regulators.

In an emergency situation like this, the opposition party may be able to push ahead with important decisions and policies.

One of the countries that has responded well to the financial crisis is Britain. The opposition Conservative Party pledged full support and cooperation with the ruling Labour Party, in line with the country’s decades-long tradition of bipartisan effort to lead the government in times of crisis, as in World War I, World War II and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Of course such decisions are always bound to cause intense debate and controversy, because it is not easy to give up the role and nature of being the opposition party in any situation. But it is also not easy to see the gravity of a crisis when you are at the very eye of the storm.

It is understandable that the opposition party would not miss this chance to grab political leverage when the ruling party faces intense criticism. But the current financial crisis is dire, regardless of the president’s optimism.

Now is a time when Democratic Party leader Chung Se-kyoon’s comment that “the economy does not belong to the administration but to the Korean public,” rings truer than ever.
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