Let’s respect national projects

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Let’s respect national projects

Today, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik will announce the government’s decision on the location for its ambitious science belt. Whatever result comes in, it’s fortunate that most of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s massive national projects have found their way after so much controversy and discord. But the divisions will be reopened when the decision is announced, as seen by the strong reactions from Daegu, North Gyeongsang, Gwangju and South Jeolla, which were excluded from the national project.

We fully understand the disappointment of the locals and the politicians representing them. The 3.5 trillion won ($3.22 billion) science belt project would no doubt contribute to the development of their regions. But the location for the project cannot be determined purely on the principle of balanced regional development. Other national interests are more significant.

The administration launched the project because we lag behind other advanced nations when it comes to natural sciences. For example, Japan produces a Nobel laureate in the sciences almost every year but we don’t. That’s why the science belt should be built in an area that would allow world-class study and research. Splitting the belt in different locations is a bad idea.

The people and politicians in the areas excluded from the selection should respect the decision of a special committee in charge of picking the site. Whatever decision the committee makes, it has to produce losers. They, of course, can express disappointment over the fact that the government’s decision was leaked in advance. And they can find fault with the administration’s leadership because it delayed the project for almost four years. But we urge them to appreciate the committee’s decision as long as there was no major mistake in the process.

The most important thing is that the public should not resort to conflict and friction over massive national projects. Although the budget for the projects comes from taxpayers’ money, it would consume our national strength if we are plunged in never-ending political battles of this kind. It would exacerbate regional distrust and animosity.

The French government found a solution to such regional conflict by creating a system in which the central government provides only a portion of the budget needed for a project, while local governments share most of the costs. Our government could also introduce a regional bidding system to prevent a recurrence of intense regional fighting, as seen recently in the selection process for a new airport.

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