[Outlook]A Christmas crisis

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[Outlook]A Christmas crisis

Christmas comes during the hottest season in Australia, as the country lies in the southern hemisphere. There are still two weeks until Christmas Day, but the country is already experiencing holiday fever.

Australia is not free of trouble when it comes to the global economic crisis. But amid the economic turmoil, retailers like department stores are doing exceptionally well because the Australian government is giving out money as bonuses.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s administration is handing 7.9 million pensioners and low-income earners, 37 percent of the entire population, cash Christmas presents of up to 1,400 Australian dollars ($930) per person, a total of 8.7 billion Australian dollars.

The Australian government is playing Santa Claus in an attempt to stimulate the economy. Rudd is pleading with people not to save the bonuses, but to spend them.

Thanks to the state’s gifts, the economic growth rate of the country is expected to go up by 0.7 percent, and 75,000 new jobs are likely to be created.

This marks a stark contrast with Korea, which is mired in an even worse slowdown than the last financial crisis.

Few expect the economy to get better around Christmas. It’s not easy for us to do the same as Australia, a country with surplus funds. Moreover, Australia’s measure is not necessarily the best possible option.

What’s important is to create an atmosphere that encourages consumption. The government must think of all possible ways to open up the people’s wallets, which are tightly sealed for now.

We can also carry out a bonus program, if on a smaller scale, around Christmas or New Year’s Day. Although only a temporary solution, it would be a good attempt to help the economy, if only just a little, by boosting consumption.

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party, which has formed a coalition with the Christian Democratic Union, is discussing a measure to provide 82 million people with vouchers worth 500 euro ($668).

The SDP’s spokesperson for financial issues emphasized that they usually do not like measures like this, but right now something, or rather anything, must be done.

Japan and Taiwan are also pushing through similar plans to give away vouchers or cash to their people.

Many of the world’s countries are working hard to manage the global economic crisis, the worst since the Great Depression, believing that every minute and every second counts.

Giving bonuses over Christmas is only the tip of the iceberg. Day after day, large-scale New Deal measures and other plans aimed at stimulating the economy are being presented.

Meanwhile, the Korean administration couldn’t be more laid back. It makes you wonder if it really feels a sense of urgency with regard to our predicament.

Every now and then, our administration presents programs meant to respond to the economic crisis.

But the people are not impressed. The government gives the impression that it is only putting forward such measures reluctantly, because it is under pressure.

It is unlikely that even pre-emptive steps will be good enough to manage the meltdown, so the plans the administration has unveiled are far from sufficient.

There have long been talks about the consumption tax on purchases of vehicles, but a decision still has not been made.

Everyone knows that all possible resources must be used in an emergency like the one we now face. We should introduce a large-scale New Deal policy like the United States and China are doing, in order to restore our ailing construction industry.

Whether it is the cross-country waterway project or something even larger, ideas need to be presented.

The administration must not waste too much time worrying because then it will miss the chance to act in a timely manner.

Lifting unnecessary regulations is one good way of producing good results without much cost.

A variety of rules imposed by the last administration must be removed. In particular, the rules imposed just for the sake of making rules, drawn up when real estate prices were surging, must be dealt with.

When one looks at Yeouido, one can’t help sighing.

In the National Assembly, lawmakers have been fighting against one another and wasting time since the economic crisis broke out. They haven’t reached a single agreement on restoring the economy.

It’s worrying that Santa may not be able to afford to give gifts to the children this year.

*The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Han Kyung-hwan
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