Let them do what they can

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Let them do what they can

With the economy showing few signs of recovery, the leadership of the economic team led by Hyun Oh-seok, deputy prime minister for the economy, is being questioned by the ruling party and the president. Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, pointed out that the government is doing little even as dire economic conditions demand immediate action. He said there were worries that the economic team may be lacking perspective on economic realities.

Chairing a cabinet meeting, President Park Geun-hye said the media is focusing more on disagreements among government offices than on government teamwork and constructive debates to work out problems and draw up measures. She demanded the deputy prime minister coordinate and come up with productive measures.

Her comments are close to a reprimand on the slow response and discord among government agencies. People’s grievances have surged due to the slow progress in economic recovery, leading to questions about the government’s capability to tackle economic problems.

The problems the Hyun Oh-seok team inherited from the previous administration cannot be solved over a short period. The critical delay in organizing the new government has also played a part. The economic team may feel resentful of all the criticism. But it should realize that it is under fire not because it achieved little, but because the policies it came up with and the way it carries them out are unsatisfactory. Despite rapid changes in economic conditions at home and abroad, the economic team has performed poorly.

The problem may be due to structural constraints that hold the team back from doing its job. In fact, the economic team is comprised of bureaucrats and scholars, who must follow orders from the president and carry out her campaign promises instead of initiating new ideas and policies.

As they were never given the authority to analyze the economy on their own, they cannot come up with prescriptions for the short- and long-term. Instead, they are busy jotting down what they are told to do. We cannot blame them for failing to demonstrate good leadership when they have never been authorized to devise solutions on their own.

The economic team must make a choice. Deputy Prime Minister Hyun should either believe in his foresight and expertise in diagnosing the economy and prescribing effective policies or continue to follow orders from the president. If he does the former, he may have to stake his seat, but nevertheless can help restore the economy.
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