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[Focus] Cabinet reorganization passes

Posted December. 27, 2000 13:59,   


Passage of a bill for the reorganization of government administration Tuesday gave it 18 ministries, four agencies and 16 other sub-cabinet bodies by the title of cheong -- an addition of one ministry and two agencies ranked cheo.

Two posts, ministers of education and economy-finance, have been upgraded to vice prime ministers.

Thus, the size and shape of the administrative branch are almost back to square one -- the closing years of the previous Kim Young-Sam administration, which had two vice prime ministers, 14 ministries, five cheos and 14 cheongs.

The government ruled out establishment of more governmental entities or increases in civil service personnel, but the setup of two vice prime ministers has to entail partial expansion in the central bureaucracy. It naturally gives rise to criticism that the government is going against its original commitment to a small and efficient government.

The timing is all the worse because the expansionist reorganization of government is contrary to the painful effects of corporate restructuring upon the people subject to downsizing and layoffs.

When it took over in 1998, the incumbent administration sought to slim down the bureaucratic establishment by downgrading the offices of the economy-finance minister and the unification minister from vice prime minister to regular ministers, abolishing two state ministers and the offices of general affairs and of public information.

In May 1998 a second reorganization scheme was introduced to reinstate the office of public information on a vice ministerial level and to create a ministerial-level agency for planning and budget, combining the planning-budget commission and the office of budget. Thus, the promise of a small and efficient government began losing ground, and it went down the drain with the latest renovation, critics say.

Analysts point out that the government has been inflating its organization as it saw fit, cutting corners and bypassing the ceiling on total public service manpower. The favorite method was to appoint various commissions, planning task forces and other advisory bodies under the president and ministers. Chief among them are the central personnel commission and three other commissions presided over by the president.

Yun Seung-Mo ysmo@donga.com