Leadership is neededPresident Moon Jae-in still seems reluctant to change course in economic policy. In a New Year’s speech at the Korea Federation of SMEs on Wednesday, he stressed, “This is the way to go if we want to change the way our economy has been running.” Despite the public’s growing disgruntlement with his economic direction, he underscored that he will do his best so the people can feel the good results of his economic policy. “2018 was the year when my administration tried hard to change the structure of our economy and society in a big way,” he said.
His remarks translate into a determination to press the government’s current policies until they bear concrete results. But he did not use the words “income-led growth.” A senior Blue House official said that does not mean there will be a change in the government’s basic policy direction, though it could signify some flexibility.
Moon has long questioned why the people are not feeling the accomplishments of his economic policy. Over a lunch on Dec. 31 with leaders of the ruling party, he attributed it to attacks from conservative media outlets and opposition parties. That shows how different his view on the economy is from ordinary people’s. An increasing number of people are suffering the unwanted side effects of his economic policy instead of its fruits. Our employment rate has hit its lowest-ever level, corporate investments are frozen and the income gap has actually widened rather than narrow.
In a Gallup Korea poll last month, disapproval of the government surpassed approval due to growing public dissatisfaction with its economic performance — 47 percent cited their worsening economic conditions as the most important factor in their position. On top of this, 32.2 percent singled out economic leadership as the most crucial qualification required of a president. That’s a call for Moon to do something to revitalize the economy. Instead, he seems to have fallen into the trap of dogma.
In his speech on Jan. 2, Moon said, “Economic development and job creation are possible when companies invest.” We welcome that sentiment, but despite his vows to remove regulations on businesses, no progress has yet been made. Moon instructed senior officials to moderate the rapid pace of minimum wage hikes, but the minimum wage rose anyway. We are dumbfounded by his lack of leadership.
The public demands economic leadership. Moon must change his economic policy to rejuvenate our sagging economy. That’s the way to give hope to the people, as he promised in his New Year’s speech.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 3, Page 30