Missing the eleventh hour
The economy is plagued by multiple scourges. At home, it has been hit hard by the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak. Farm production is afflicted by a serious drought. On the international front, Greece is teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy. China has cut interest rates, raising alarm over the speed of its economic slowdown. Our country faces one of its toughest times.
Yet the legislature is in a world of its own, leisurely going into a break. The presidential office and the ruling and opposition parties are in a showdown over a law that could empower the legislature to demand amendments to presidential and government decrees. The opposition has boycotted all assembly schedules. Without the legislature, the government cannot push ahead with the much-needed supplementary budget to help MERS-hit regions and industries. Piles of other bills designed to help the economy and public have also been shelved.
The country cannot afford a power game among politicians. Greece is on its way to declaring bankruptcy. The talks among European leaders on the new bailout fund worth 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) broke down. ATMs are running dry as people take out 2 trillion won ($1.78 billion) every day. As of the weekend, most ATMs across the nation no longer have any money left. It will have to declare a default and exit the euro zone. We must not underestimate the consequences from the Greek crisis. Although it takes up a mere 1.3 percent of the EU gross domestic product, its downfall has the potential to shake the global financial market.
The greater threat comes from China. The Chinese central bank cut the rate on one-year loans at commercial banks by 0.25 percentage point to 4.85 percent, the fourth cut over the last seven months. As a result, the interest rate paid on one-year deposits has dropped to 2 percent - close to levels in Korea. The move follows a nearly 20 percent plunge in Chinese stocks over the past two weeks. Right now, China cannot be positive about an annual growth of 7 percent. A slower Chinese economy can translate to a further slowdown in Korean exports.
The spread of MERS in its second month has taken a heavy toll on retail sales and outdoor activities. Shopping streets are empty as tourists have stopped coming to Korea. The legislature must pass the supplementary budget as soon as possible. It can miss the eleventh hour if the supplementary budget does not pass within July. The presidential office and government must also do all it can to persuade the legislature and employ all possible measures to prevent the economy from falling into the abyss. JoongAng Ilbo, June 29, Page 30
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