Heads in the sand

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Heads in the sand

The Blue House and ruling party have chosen to turn a blind eye to the jobs debacle. They obsessively defend the so-called income-led growth policy — the keystone to the Moon Jae-in administration’s economic agenda — despite overwhelming calls for a change in the policy direction.

A senior presidential aide said the current policy for growth can be adjusted if effects do not show. He added that there is no need to cling to the slogan of income-led growth. But he suggested that more time is needed, saying, “It has been just seven months since the minimum wage has been hiked [by double digits] and a month since the 52-hour workweek has been enforced.”

Moon maintains the same paradoxical stance. In a meeting with senior secretaries, he said the government would have to admit that policy endeavors to combat low employment have not been sufficient, considering the results so far. His comment suggests he feels responsibility, but at the same time does not agree that his policy of generating growth through increases in incomes made a bad situation worse. The government has poured in 54 trillion won ($48 billion) to ameliorate job conditions, but data clearly suggests that the money has been wasted as the employment situation only worsened.

Choo Mi-ae, head of the Democratic Party, placed all the blame on past conservative governments and claimed the economy is going through a correctional period of strengthening after years of weakening. Lee Hae-chan, a former prime minister under President Roh Moo-hyun, argued that Lee Myung-bak’s profligate project of renovating four rivers killed potential investments in new industries. Floor-leader Hong Yong-pyo said the economy has weakened because the past conservative administration neglected reforming Korea’s industrial structure.

No one in the Blue House or ruling party dares to speak the truth about the income-led growth policy. Kim Jin-pyo, a former deputy prime minister for the economy in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, urged the Blue House to press ahead with the policy as it would take three years for the trickle-up policy to bring about positive results.

Security guards at the apartment of Jang Ha-sung, President Moon’s architect of the income-led growth policy, are at risk of being sacked as a result of the hike in the minimum wage. Jang has asked the public to have patience with the government’s policy. Can he say the same to his own security guards?

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 22, Page 30
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