Real platforms needed
Unsurprisingly, the rival parties are pumping out vain and reckless welfare platforms ahead of the April 13 general election. None of them have been thought through, and are merely recycled and repackaged from past campaign promises. Hopes are low for policy competition as the ruling party members are fighting among themselves over who is more loyal to President Park Geun-hye, while the opposition is literally split into two rival parties.
The Minjoo Party of Korea led by the mainstream faction pledged to create 700,000 jobs for young people and make high school education mandatory and free. It wants to offer 600,000 won ($500) in allowances to 50,000 people while they job hunt for a period of six months. It also pledged to provide 50,000 public rental houses as well as 50,000 affordable homes for newlyweds. Obviously, they have not done their math, as all the projects would require billions of dollars. They kept mum on how to come up with the money. Their promises come even as Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is being criticized for his campaign promise of providing allowances for young job seekers.
Apart from the money, the plan itself is not feasible. Companies cannot afford a hiring quota for young people as they are already struggling to make up for a delayed retirement age and extended base salary scope. While promising a hiring quota for the young, the opposition is refusing to pass the peak wage system that would allow room for more new recruitment and other labor-related bills for increased flexibility in the job market.
The Saenuri Party’s pledge to ease the household debt burden was nothing more than a big yawn. Seven out of eight promises were recycled from the central and local governments. Its promise to raise the monthly income cap for foreclosure claims to 1.8 million won from the current 1.5 million won does not need any approval from the legislature, only a tweak in the law by the Ministry of Justice.
Disgruntlement by the young over frustrating job conditions is becoming so serious that it had been covered by the U.S. media. Politicians naturally must address the issue. But they must consider fiscal conditions and concoct feasible plans if they really care about welfare. The ruling party’s so-called dogmatic “untaxed welfare benefits” have wrecked havoc on the fiscal state of local and central governments. The government, legislature and education superintendents are wrangling over the astronomical cost of free child care. We sincerely plead for the parties to come up with decent policy platforms. JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 6, Page 26