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[Editorial] President Kim's direct supervision of the economy

[Editorial] President Kim's direct supervision of the economy

Posted October. 04, 2000 20:58,   


On his realization that both the internal and external conditions of our economy are in serious trouble, President Kim Dae-Jung directed the cabinet to take ad-hoc measures to address the nation's ailing economy. President Kim's stern directives to the cabinet ministers delineated 12 reform agendas pivotal for economic recovery. The ministers were instructed that they must arm themselves with grave resolutions to accomplish all reform agendas by February next year. President Kim's adequate realization of our troubled economy, albeit somewhat belated, is still better to come late than never.

On Memorial Day, it should be recalled here, the President assured the nation that he would personally look into and manage the country's economic affairs. But, subsequent developments led us to think that the President's promises were hardly likely to be kept. In the meantime, the economy has been getting worse day by day.

The market's real economy was showing serious trouble and the business slump had a chilling effect on consumers, becoming worse every day and causing no small amount of anxiety to them. Yet, President Kim expressed his optimistic views on our economy up until only two weeks ago by quoting the macro-economic indicators and some foreign financial institutions' rosy analysis of our economy. This is a clear indication that the President's understanding of our economic situation has thus far been lamentably easy-going. This also seriously discredits what the Presidential Secretariat had earlier assured the general public -- that the President has full access to all channels of communications with outsiders so as to enable him to adequately understand current situations.

In retrospect, the delays in the administration's reform schedules have so far been too frequent. In the case of financial reforms, for example, the administration stated that it would complete the reform by the end of last year. Failing to meet the schedule, the deadline was extended to the end of this month. This was again changed to the end of next month as the completion of financial reforms before the end of this month appeared impossible.

Moreover, the four major reforms in financial, corporate, labor and public sectors have been marginal with the possible exception of private sector reforms. This illustrates how much the administration has been idle and negligent in undertaking the reform agendas, let alone being setting an example in spearheading them. Against this backdrop, President Kim's resolute statement that he will personally conduct and manage the country's economic affairs seems to herald an important change in the lamentable state of affairs.

The 12 reform agendas in the four major sectors that the President detailed as the major hurdles to our economy were assigned to the ministers for completion before the given deadline. The President assured us that he will conduct a monthly check of their progress.

The financial sector reforms deserve urgent priority among other agendas. Thus, we hope that Finance and Economy Minister Jin Nyum as well as other economy-related ministers show their determination to complete reforms in the financial sectors within the scheduled deadline. Otherwise, they all must be prepared to leave their posts. We also hope that the President pays adequate attention to the reforms in non-financial sectors of the real economy, which have been slighted so far.

In addition, what worries us here is the conflicts between the cabinet's economic team and the ruling party's power elite over the reform agendas. The ruling party leaders and political quarters are very critical about the economic team's competence and policy directions. In contrast, the team blames the political forces for the worsened economy. In our view, none of them can be so proud about what they have done for the reforms as to criticize the other side. Instead of verbal assaults, they should be able to demonstrate their will and commitment to reforms by minimizing their empty rhetoric.