[Viewpoint]Creating jobs that last

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[Viewpoint]Creating jobs that last

In April 1947, then U.S. President Harry Truman signed a bill changing the name of the Boulder Dam on the Colorado River to the Hoover Dam. The change was to honor 31st president Herbert Hoover, who governed the United States from 1929 to 1932. Hoover failed to adequately counteract the early stages of the Great Depression, but the U.S. Congress still valued his decision to build the dam, which was part of the New Deal program.

Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1936. The 221-meter-high dam, capable of storing up to 33.6 billion tons of water, was the largest in the world. (The height of the 63 Building is 264 meters and Soyanggang Dam is capable of storing 2.9 billion tons of water.)

Construction created up to 5,000 new jobs. Workers flocked to the area from all around the United States. Amid heat waves of 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit), work continued and wages went to feeding families.

But that was not the end of the Hoover Dam’s legacy.

It became even more precious after the Great Depression. As a symbol of the pioneering spirit, the dam continued to contribute to economic development.

The dam controlled the Colorado River, allowing southern California to be developed free from the risk of floods. Without the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas’ fancy neon lights would never have been lit.

Up to 8 million tourists and architects visit Hoover Dam every year and spend money.

When it was designed, the dam was nothing more than a massive concrete structure. But the U.S. government commissioned famous architect Gordon Kaufmann to redesign the exterior.

The graceful structure seen today was born of Kaufmann’s vision.

The American Society of Civil Engineers named the Hoover Dam one of the Seven Civil Engineering Wonders.

The U.S. government’s investment for the future also helped the business community. Bechtel Corporation became a global company based on its participation in the building of Hoover Dam.

The New Year has come and the Korean-version of the New Deal has begun. The project to restore the four major rivers has started.

While some criticized it as a disguised attempt to build a Grand Canal, now is not the time for such accusations. The fear of unemployment has already arrived.

According to the National Statistical Office, total jobs for those in their 20s and 30s went down by 260,000 in November last year, compared to the previous month. This situation is so desperate that the government must increase spending immediately.

It is, however, extremely important to check whether tax money was spent appropriately.

Increased spending does not necessarily overcome a crisis. It is important to drastically increase spending, but it is more important that the money plant the seeds for future growth.

Japan spent more than 100 trillion yen over the decade since 1992 for 13 major projects.

And yet, the country was left with empty coffers and ended up with increased debt. It was the outcome of spending money for civil engineering construction projects because the government was obsessed with short-term impact.

We will spend 14 trillion won over the next four years for the project to restore the four major rivers.

However, there is no clear blueprint on how to use this precious tax money. The government only insists that 190,000 new jobs will be created.

The government does not say what kinds of jobs they are. The government does not say whether quality jobs will continue to open up in the future. It only said more specific plans will be provided by May.

Because the government is acting slowly, the money is being spent slowly.

Construction has begun in the Nakdong and Yeongsan rivers, but some say there has been no actual work since the opening ceremonies took place.

Digging river beds and tidying riversides are not enough.

The government said there are plans to build bicycle roads and parks, but this is not enough to create quality jobs.

What we need right now are not temporary jobs.

We need a blueprint with substance to ensure a fruitful future.

The U.S. government spent $165 million to build the Hoover Dam, but the money was an investment: The government now sells electricity generated from the dam.

In this case, the returns included interest.


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

by Kim Jong-yoon

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