Put the people before gov’t staffPresident Park Geun-hye suggested a reform of government workers’ pensions as one of her key agenda items in February when she announced her economic innovation plan for the next three years. Promises of reinvention are most persuasive when the government implements them before demanding that others do the same. However, when the senior presidential secretary, the head of the prime minister’s office and chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party’s policy committee met on Monday, none of them put the controversial issue of revamping debt-ridden civil servants pension schemes on the table.
Pension reform is a political hot potato, as seen by the government employees’ unions physically obstructing a Saenuri Party policy forum, which was held with the pro-Saenuri Korean Pension Association last week. And the ruling camp’s reluctance to tackle the issue lays bare its inability - or lack of responsibility - to effectively deal with it.
Lee Hahn-koo, chairman of the Saenuri’s special committee for economic reinvention, admitted that the three representatives showed dismissive attitudes. He said they don’t want to take a leading role in reforming the deficit-ridden pensions for fear of a strong backlash from millions of civil servants despite a strong need for reform. In fact, the government employees’ union has been exerting all efforts to attack An Chong-bum, the senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, for initiating the pension reform after singling him out as the chief instigator of the crusade.
The pensions have been gobbling up tax money and yet government workers still rake in benefits more than double what ordinary citizens receive from their national pensions. The government could not reform the pensions due to the uncooperative attitudes of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security (now renamed the Ministry of Security and Public Administration), which has been in charge of the reformation since 2007, when the national pension scheme for ordinary citizens went through a massive revamp.
Even now, the ministry shuns its responsibility to administer reform in order not to lose its own benefits, while passively waiting for the Blue House or ruling party’s guidelines. People didn’t elect Park as president to see an administration that can’t do its job for fear of resistance from government employees. The Saenuri Party may be afraid of losing their votes in the next elections. But the party will first be abandoned by the people before the labor union.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 30, Page 34