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Dispute over Demand for Relegation and Autonomy of Localities

Dispute over Demand for Relegation and Autonomy of Localities

Posted November. 19, 2002 22:54,   


Recently, on the rise is the strong demand for relegation of the central government`s power to localities. Some heads of the local governments are pressuring presidential candidates into making promises about the relegation. The local governors and mayors are threatening to defect from their political parties, and not to endorse the candidates. They are even promising to take "collective actions." What lies behind this increasing demand is the necessity of authorities, sources of tax revenues and human power for development of the local economies. Without getting those resources from the central government, localities think, they would not achieve their goals. On the other hand, quite a few people point out that their demand is understandable. But localities should first look back on whether they are using their authorities appropriately.

▽ Demand for relegation; The Association of Local Council Heads (ALCH) held a rally yesterday at the Weightlifting Stadium in the Olympic Park with 3,485 city council members on hand. During the rally, the ALCH adopted a resolution urging the central government to revise the relevant laws in such a way as to give more autonomy to localities. Then, the ALCH announced that it would deliver the resolution to the central government and the presidential candidates.

Prior to the rally, the Council of Local Executive Heads (CLEH) held a convention on Nov. 4th, and announced a statement in which the heads of local governments demanded for rational distribution of human and financial resources, and enactment of a special law to guarantee more autonomy of localities. The ALCH promised, more than anything else, "If the presidential candidates fail to incorporate our demands into their pledges, we will respond with whatever we could mobilize. Each of us could even sever the relations with the party each belongs to."

In addition, on Nov. 7th, 12 localities and civil liberties groups such as the Citizens` Coalition for Economic Justice launched a campaign for more autonomy and relegation of power. Also on hand at the rally were 450 citizens like professors and civil rights activists.

▽ Major points demanded; One of the most illuminating examples is the Declaration of the Intellectual for Local Autonomy, which was announced by 2,757 well-educated people in September of this year.

In the declaration, they argued that the central government should no longer be allowed to commission its duties to localities, while relegating more authorities. On the other hand, measures to warrant more tax revenues shall be designed to realize the autonomy of localities in a more substantial way. They demanded, for example, for enactment of local income tax and sales tax, and for increase of local taxation rate from the current 15% to 20%.

Furthermore, they demanded for enactment of a special law for fostering local universities, and for affirmative action type of policy to guarantee the regional diversity in admissions and employment.

▽ Response of the central government; The central government itself does not oppose relegation of power in principle. Thus, it plans to enact a “Special Act for Relegation of Power” next year to relegate whatever has not been done so, despite its promise of such.

Kim Dae Jung administration, right upon inauguration, promised to relegate authorities to handle 689 kinds of government works now handled by the central government. So far, however, authorities regarding only 165 of them have been relegated.

One senior official of the central government said, "What makes the central government hesitate to do so lies in the fear that lack of expertise and know-how on the part of the localities might deter smooth operation of the nation as a whole. What the localities need now is not the power, but the preparation and self-examination."

Hyun-Doo Lee ruchi@donga.com