Calling for a cautious transitionPresident-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition committee announced a plan to realign the structure of the government. It proposed reviving the deputy prime minister for economic affairs and the ministry for maritime affairs and fisheries. It will also create a ministry on future planning and science, while eliminating the minister-at-large. Committee chairman Kim Yong-joon said the reorganization was developed after listening to opinions from each government office in order to compensate for shortcomings of the incumbent government. The opposition also approved the plan by branding it a “sensible reorganization.”
Many have been arguing for the necessity of clear management on economic affairs by elevating the finance minister to the deputy premier level. Even though the minister of strategy and finance played the role of head of economic affairs, he could not wield the same influence as in the past due to a lack of deputy premier-level authority on issues like welfare, job creation and household debt in the turbulent economic climate.
The Bank of Korea downgraded this year’s economic growth outlook to 2.8 percent from 3.2 percent last month. A loss of 1 percentage point in growth could reduce tax revenues by 2 trillion won ($1.89 billion). The government cannot meet its welfare promises if the economy does not generate meaningful growth. Given these challenges, the revival of an economic vice prime minister clearly demonstrates Park’s will to restore the economy.
The creation of a new minister of “future planning and science” reflects the mounting need to streamline the science and technology departments following the merger of the science and technology and information and communications ministries. The new ministry will be responsible for information, communications and technology, and will also take the research and development budgeting role from the presidential commission on science and technology.
On broadcasting and communications, the new ministry will be in charge of promotion, and regulatory work will remain with the Korea Communications Commission. But the new government should take note that Internet Protocol Television licensing was delayed for four years in the past because of this kind of division in communications governance. The ministerial title “future planning and science” is also ambiguous and could generate unnecessary strife with other agencies.
The incoming administration needs to proceed with caution so that the president-elect can start out on the right foot.