Time to set aside private agendasThe ruling Saenuri Party submitted 12 bills on the opening day of the 19th National Assembly. They include actions to strengthen safety nets for nonpermanent or irregular workers, people with disabilities and small business owners, as promised in the party’s campaign platform. The bills are meant to improve the benefits and lives of underprivileged members of society, and they require the attention of the opposition camp regardless of who first sponsored them.
The newly elected legislators have begin their four-year terms, but the Assembly remains out to lunch. The respective leaderships of the ruling and opposition camps are at odds over the composition of floor members, and in such an atmosphere the bills are likely to receive scant attention. The Assembly is clearly in no position to conduct serious business. The warring camps must break the stalemate and reach an agreement soon to pave the way for constructive results.
However, the new faces should not exploit the bills merely to try and make names for themselves. The ruling party pledged during its campaign that it would ensure bills related to family welfare were passed within 100 days. Fulfilling campaign promises is crucial, but enacting mature and purposeful laws is even more so. The ruling party should reexamine its pledges to ensure it puts a priority on legislation that addresses the most pressing needs of the time. The same discretion is required of the opposition.
Some critics have blasted the bills for over-regulating and therefore dampening corporate activity. Targets of their ire include a proposal that large companies must publicize their recruitment details, another specifying punitive actions against subcontractors for unfair pricing, and the move to expand childcare subsidies to include all families with children under the age of five. Meanwhile, prohibiting large retailers from opening new outlets in smaller cities is a move that can only benefit foreign competition. Businesses fear they may soon find themselves drowning in all the regulative and anti-corporate measures that political parties have promised the public in order to win votes. Lawmakers are advised to listen to industry representatives and review the bills with discretion.
The National Assembly’s primary role is lawmaking. Legislators have the duty to devise bills, review them and codify them as law. Exactly what kind of laws they make is as important as how many they pump out. They should study harder to minimize the downside risks.