Deregulation done liveThe ministerial-level meeting about deregulation, expanded to include the participation of more than 60 private businessmen, was held at the Blue House yesterday. The businessmen, including self-employed small business owners, explained in detail the kind of bother they have suffered from government regulations on their business. People who watched the live broadcast of the unusual meeting could immediately comprehend why President Park Geun-hye called Korea’s red tape a “cancer” in our society. If the conference was aimed at drawing a national consensus on deregulation, it may have achieved its goal.
The debate went from a businessman’s question to a minister’s answer to the president’s comment on the answer followed by the minister’s repeated answer and to a concluding comment by the president. Park sometimes stepped into the discussion to play the role of troubleshooter. The ministers’ promises to scrap regulations have now been televised live to the people. If high-ranking officials go back on their words, they can hardly avoid public disdain. Given the large impact of the televised discussion, the government should consider holding such meetings regularly.
Various ways to deregulate business were discussed in the forum. The government vowed to eliminate at least 20 percent of all regulations by the end of 2016. As an earlier government’s scheme to strike a balance between old and new regulations didn’t work very well, the current government intends to raise its effectiveness by referring to the relatively successful model of the United Kingdom. In contrast with the British model, though, our deregulation system is based on the registered number of regulations rather than on the total amount of cost. Therefore, the government must approach the problem in a more elaborate way - for instance, by devising a model of measuring and assessing the costs involved.
The deregulation drive should not end within government ministries. It must be extended to the grass roots. Unless low-level civil servants cooperate, the central government’s efforts will be futile. Local officials are not inclined to follow the government’s direction because local governments always prioritize their residents’ demands. As you go down the ladder, officials instinctually restrict business activities, citing “internal guidelines.” When it comes to deregulation, the president must be resolute. Yesterday’s meeting should not be a one-off. It is just the beginning.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 21, Page 34