Reform requires communicationTrapped in the past, politicians are wasting their time and energy on political fights instead of focusing on resolving the hardships people are facing from the protracted economic slowdown and restoring the economic prosperity needed to improve the public welfare and national development. Furthermore, the National Assembly failed to respect the statutory deadline to approve next year’s budget, making provisional budgets unavoidable.
As we see this chaos in the political arena, we are reminded of the witty quote from Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Given the imperfectness of democracy that Churchill mentioned, the serious waste of national power and damage to the country’s competitiveness committed by our politicians only fuel our frustration and disappointment at the reality of Korean democracy.
Despite the various costs and adverse effects from liberal democracy, Francis Fukuyama still argued that it could be the final form of government. Apart from his argument, we have no other alternative at this point. All we can do is make efforts to minimize the costs and adverse effects of democracy. To this end, our country’s future requires a comprehensive discussion of not only the ruling party’s recent argument to revise the controversial National Assembly Advancement Act - initially aimed at preventing the ruling party from railroading government-proposed bills, but eventually slowing down the legislature - but also on amendments to our Constitution and the outmoded general election law. Experts in academia and the media must join with politicians from the ruling and opposition parties to initiate a national debate.
In the meantime, the administration should continue its everyday operations. With the Park Geun-hye administration entering its second year soon, ministries must finalize their goals and missions as soon as possible. When they create their plan for next year, the ministries must keep one thing in mind: Each ministry must draw up its plan as a part of a far-sighted road map aimed at achieving a long-term vision and goals to be accomplished by 2017 or later. In this process, the government must first coordinate its opinions on the national agenda and improve understanding among policy makers at each ministry. The government is aiming for a 70 percent employment rate and the realization of a “creative economy.” If any ministry’s goals don’t match up with those aims, the government must modify them.
On the administration’s goal of achieving a 70 percent employment rate by 2017, it should be clearly stressed that the rate will be improved through “growth.” Without such an emphasis, each ministry may be tempted to focus on sharing or splitting existing jobs rather than creating new ones.
The clearly defined national agenda of “job creation through growth” will help prevent ministries and politicians from insisting on legislation and regulations that could hinder job creation or reduce the number of jobs, despite their agreement on the general direction of the national agenda. The purpose of policies should be simple and easy to understand. Only then will it be easy to put together the different views of each ministry and persuade the people and the politicians.
Also, it is desirable for the government to add a more comprehensive mid-to-long-term goal, in addition to the 70 percent employment rate through growth. As our economy’s growth potential is rapidly dropping, we must improve this. More specifically, when the growth potential is already lowered to 3.5 percent, each ministry must devise detailed plans to raise the figure by at least 1 percentage point to 1.5 percentage points by 2017.
The rapidly falling growth potential of our economy is the most serious challenge we are facing. In addition to the long-term goal of ratcheting up the employment rate, the administration must also put more efforts into reforming education to improve the quality of human resources, enhancing job training for workers and creating a better corporate investment climate. Furthermore, the government’s plans should include specific programs to improve the efficiency of our economy through reforming various systems. At the same time, it must include measures to uphold law and order - the very basis of democracy - and operate all systems and regulations transparently and fairly.
The government’s efforts, however, still require cooperation from the politicians. Therefore, it must actively and directly communicate with the public. Not only the ministers and vice ministers, but also working-level officials must include effective ways to persuade the public through the media. Improving direct communications with the public to induce changes in the political arena is more important than ever.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author, a former deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Sakong Il