Early this month, a pilot test of an autonomous driving by a large electric bus was carried out in downtown Singapore. While self-driving tests of smaller vehicles were conducted in various other countries, it was the first time for a large bus. The test was a joint project involving Volvo Buses and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the Land Transport Authority. It was the city state’s Economic Development Board that first proposed the project to Volvo Buses. The automaker’s vice president said the officials were “like entrepreneurs” rather than government bureaucrats. They contrast with the self-protective attitudes shown by many Korean government officials who tend to worry about taking responsibilities and attempt to not get involved in new work.
In future industries, the level of deregulation is as important as technology. The point is made clear in global management consulting firm KPMG’s 2019 evaluation of preparedness for self-driving cars. In the general ranking, Singapore was second, while Korea was ranked 13th. While Singapore was ranked lower (15th) than South Korea (7th) in technology, the city state came on top in terms of deregulation, with South Korea trailing far behind at 7th. In other words, South Korea was more advanced than Singapore in technology, namely the private sector, while falling behind in deregulation, or the level of government.
Industries related with digital revolution – self-driving, shared economy and remote medical treatment – all involve the processes of creating new forms of jobs that were previously unseen. They inevitably clash with existing occupations or professions. How a country makes a balance and resolves issues is determined by the abilities of that country’s political leaders and government officials.
At a government meeting on Thursday, Prime Minster Lee Nak-yeon stressed the importance of changing the mindsets of government officials, urging them to make a shift of thoughts to adopting a negative system for regulations. While he is absolutely rights, the prime minister must be aware that government bureaucrats would not budge an inch even if he said so because he had served as a provincial governor.
Government officials act even a little bit only when those who abuse regulations are strictly reprimanded or officials who make exemplary deregulation cases are granted promotions or great rewards. This country’s deregulatory reform should go no further than the president and the prime minister renovate bureaucrats’ mindsets.