No time to loseWe hope our lawmakers overcome the schisms over several bills aimed at revitalizing our supine economy and pass them quickly. The economy is in such a serious state that we cannot afford for our legislators to dither any longer.
There are dire indicators aplenty. After our real GDP growth hovered at around 0.8 percent in the first quarter, an increasing number of think tanks are lowering their growth forecasts this year. Choi Kyung-hwan, deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister, recently did the same, bringing the projection down to 3.3 percent from 3.8 percent despite the government’s persistent push for the latter. Our economy has reached a phase in which it can hardly find a breakthrough in the current stalemate or a new growth engine.
The ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy are poles apart on a revised tourism promotion bill and another for the development of the service industry. Though the two bills were proposed three years ago, they are still pending at the National Assembly. The tourism promotion bill, if passed, would allow travel businesses to build hotels around school zones. The bill has been a subject of contention from the outset as it involves granting permission for the nation’s leading carrier, Korean Air, to construct
a five-star hotel on a plot of land close to Gyeongbok Palace.
The gap between the ruling and opposition parties became noticeably narrower thanks to an urgent need to meet the increasing demand for accommodations to serve Chinese tourists. But everything changed overnight when the opposition party refused to put the bill to a vote after Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of the chairman of Hanjin Group, which owns Korean Air, became an international laughing stock after she delayed a flight from New York to Seoul last year to eject the cabin manager out of fury over the way she was served macadamia nuts.
The second bill for the service industry is in limbo as it could lead to the privatization of the medical industry. Due to the profound gap regarding the liberalization, both parties promised to deal with the bill during the current session. But standing committees have not yet found common ground due to the tug-of-war between the two camps. The opposition is trying to link the passage of the bill to a political bill aimed at enacting a law to allow a special prosecutor to investigate an explosive payoff scandal.
But even if the two bills are passed, there are tougher challenges ahead. Deregulation is the key to reviving the economy.