The president’s promises

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The president’s promises

President Park Geun-hye announced a three-year plan for economic innovation yesterday. She offered detailed ways to achieve her New Year initiatives encapsulated by 4 percent economic growth, a 70 percent overall employment rate and $40,000 per capita national income by 2017. The plan includes three major strategies for accomplishing strong economic fundamentals, a dynamic economy and an economy well balanced between domestic demand and exports, along with 15 core tasks and 100 implementation programs.

We take special note of a wide array of innovative ideas. Park reportedly demanded her original 15-minute speech be extended to 30 minutes, which eventually ended up as a 41-minute address. That testifies to her strong determination to tackle the economic challenges by herself. The president also vowed to put top priority on the reform of three public pension programs, including the civil servants’ pension. She tried to set an example in reviving the debt-ridden public sector through self-sacrifice first and then gain cooperation from others.

The government’s diagnosis and prescription for the economy is correct, as it grasped the reality of our economy being at a crossroads from which it can achieve another leap or lapse into stagnation. The goals and methods are concrete and transparent, as seen in the plans to invest 4 trillion won ($3.7 billion) to enhance the environment for start-ups and increase the government’s R&D investment to the level of 5 percent of our gross domestic product. Regrettably, though, the president skipped mentioning how to fund the ambitious projects, where to find engines for future growth and how to approach the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.

All past governments pledged to reform the public sector, but to no avail. Revitalization of startups and deregulation were enthusiastically pursued by the Kim Dae-jung administration, but those efforts ended in failure in the face of vehement resistance of the establishment and bureaucrats.

If the plan lacks something new, it must have depth. Olympic figure skater Kim Yu-na’s double axel’s predominance over Asada Mao’s triple axel was possible because of her choice and concentration. We hope Park’s vow to directly take care of the three core strategies will not be forgotten.

But the president’s detailed demand for reform leaves room for reconsiderations. Civil servants and the private sector don’t always follow what the president says. No matter how firm her resolution, the economy cannot be revived by the president alone. The president needs to leave the details to each economic actor. That’s the essence of the creative economy she is championing.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30

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