Deregulation isn’t easy

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Deregulation isn’t easy

The ministerial-level meeting concerning deregulation that President Park Geun-hye vowed to preside over will actually be a much broader meeting between the government and civilian sectors. In a sharp departure from her earlier plan, the president reportedly demanded that all the participants in the conference, including ministers and executives from private companies, participate in focused discussions over the direction needed to ease various regulations across the industrial sector.

Despite the president’s determination, deregulation is not easy, as seen in repeated failures by past governments. That’s because the administration only took a cost-versus-benefits approach to the issue without taking into account the innate resistance of bureaucrats - who don’t want to give up their regulatory power over private companies - and the greed of politicians. Officials even dared to insert new regulations into deregulations. And deregulation pursued with such resistance ends in failure.

Regulations are imposed for complicated reasons. For instance, the government imposed regulations on large-scale retail stores to protect traditional markets and mom-and-pop shops. It also put construction regulations on Seoul metropolitan areas to encourage balanced development for other regions. Without looking at the bigger picture of the national economy, however, the economy faces the risk of losing its vitality. To effectively ease regulations, the government must mediate intricately linked conflicts of interest across society.

Unless the government wants its deregulation drive to fizzle out, it must first present a large framework for reform. Only then can it overcome the resistance of bureaucrats and politicians.

We propose live coverage of the joint meeting the president will preside over so that ordinary citizens can understand why the president emphasizes deregulation and intends to push ahead with it. The televised debate could serve as a starting point for building a national consensus.

The Blue House is negative about that proposal, citing a lack of time and inconvenience; it will take two hours if each participant talks for three minutes, they say. If that is impossible, it can make public the process of debate through recorded footage. But a televised debate would be a lot easier.

Of course, the meeting must not proceed in a question and answer format like the president’s New Year’s press conference. That’s too stodgy. Only when diverse voices from the field are heard by the people can a national consensus begin to be built.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 19, Page 30

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