Don’t stop public sector reform
Politicians are threatening to overthrow various reform plans for the public sector ahead of legislative and presidential elections this year. The ruling Grand National Party’s emergency leadership council recently implied its opposition to a government plan to privatize the country’s high-speed KTX trains. One Democratic Unity Party candidate vowed to fight to suspend a proposal to split and spin off the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation’s financial and industrial operations. Yet both parties have failed to present alternatives. Do they mean to sustain the deficit-ridden public service sector with taxpayer funds forever?
Now, rumors about the reforms are spreading on the Internet and mobile media. Some warn of a surge in public utility fees upon privatization, citing various examples of overseas failures. Others also suspect favoritism for the chaebol or foreign capital, whose rich resources give them an advantage in the bidding for public entities. The public is beginning to be swayed by the rumors and so are politicians. But when the status quo is maintained, the results cannot be avoided. Executives and unionized employees of public corporations will enjoy fat paychecks without any hard work at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.
We do not have to refer to foreign cases to underscore the need for privatization. We have privatized numerous public companies. Steelmaker Posco and telecommunications company KT have turned private without disrupting the related industries. The result was better customer service and corporate management.
Public entities largely running on tax funds are not motivated to work hard for profits, not to mention improved customer service, because of their monopoly status. The public sectors that do not need monopoly status should be the first to be exposed to competition.
The plan to split the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation has been finalized after 15 years of disputes. We cannot understand the call for a delay in the plan just a month before the new co-op law containing the reform plan is due to take effect.
The government plan to hand over the operation of bullet train routes from Suseo in southern Seoul to Busan and Mokpo, South Jeolla, to a private company is part of a railway efficacy plan outlined in 2004.
These reform plans may need more study, but not reconsideration. Politicians should not dance to rumors and undermine public sector reform procedures.