Put job creation first

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Put job creation first

The Park Geun-hye government that officially goes to work next week announced a five-point policy agenda with the ultimate goal of ushering in a “new era of happiness and hope for the people.” The transition committee ended 48 days of work and came up with 140 action plans. It placed highest priority on creating jobs through innovation in the economy and targeted employment and welfare programs. Jobs are surely the best way for the government to enhance individual happiness and harmonize economic growth with social welfare.

The action plans and national agenda have been tweaked from a somewhat populist campaign platform to make them more feasible and better reflect economic and social realities. The transition committee revised the contentious basic pension program for senior citizens and insurance coverage for four major illnesses. The rhetoric of “economic democratization,” widely used during the election campaign to tarnish large companies and demand a bit more than a mere trickle-down effect, was replaced by the more plausible and wise goal of “establishing a market economy order based on principles of fairness.”

Still the agenda fell short of some expectations and didn’t project any urgency. The country’s biggest challenges are structural problems coming from an aging society, low growth and rapidly escalating geopolitical risks, including the North Korean nuclear threat. But the new government’s agenda failed to contain an adequate response and steps to address and solve those problems. A lack of awareness of the gravity of key problems could undermine priorities on the government’s agenda. Moreover, the transition committee did not elaborate on how the new president would go forward with so-called confidence building measures to improve inter-Korean ties in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile threats.

The announcement also did not spell out the means of funding new welfare programs and other action plans. The new government merely promised to increase tax revenues without specially saying how it intends to do so. Tax increases directly affect the lives of the people and also determine the feasibility of the various action plans.

The transition committee’s manifesto is neither binding nor permanent. It is a kind of blueprint to give a general idea and direction for the new government to take. The government might have to make changes and deviations down the road. It needs to keep its eyes on the road to respond flexibly and in a timely manner to challenges and tests. That is what a responsible government does.
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