The president’s tea party

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The president’s tea party

President Lee Myung-bak sat down with chairmen of the country’s largest business groups to discuss fostering “symbiotic” and “balanced” corporate growth. The president explained his campaign to pursue balanced growth among large and small companies, and called on large business owners to take a more active role in achieving this balance.

It is still hard to pin down exactly what the president is talking about, but few would disagree that the country is overdependent on the 30 top conglomerates. Who would oppose a fair and balanced corporate habitat where the big and small inhabitants coexist on reciprocal relations?

Large business groups must exercise more commitment and responsibility in the community. If they had the will, they could provide solutions to the country’s problems, such as wealth polarization, youth unemployment and low birth rates. Social responsibility would also benefit the companies in the long run.

There is nothing wrong with the president preaching to chief executives of large business groups on the need to change their attitudes. What is important is the result - not the words. The uncompelling conclusion of the meeting has been this: There is a consensus on the necessity of balanced growth. Statements issued after most government meetings have been equally insubstantial, lacking concrete action plans and vision.

If the meeting was about balanced industrial and corporate growth, the government should have presented a set of guidelines and sought cooperation from business leaders. But, the meeting was merely a tea party because the president talked about his grandiose ideas without providing any concrete steps forward. That is why all the talk of symbiotic progress and balanced growth since last year has resulted in nothing but repetitive rhetoric.

It is wrong for the president to simply demand action and change from the corporate sector. The government should shoulder some blame for worsening socioeconomic polarization and unemployment. It should present ideas before demanding commitment from the corporate sector. To encourage more hiring, it could have offered incentives for businesses. To spur balanced growth, it could have drawn up a structural and legal framework. There is no reason to meet with business leaders if the government wants to give orders without taking on any of the responsibility.

These vain meetings should stop.

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