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[Editorial] The Prime Minister’s Office

Posted April. 25, 2006 05:18,   


The Office of the Prime Minister which grew as large as it could during the tenure of former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan is forecasted to stay the same during Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook’s office term. In accordance with President Roh Moo-hyun’s plans for decentralized national management, excluding foreign affairs and security, the general administration will continue to be supervised by the prime minister, which is why the organization and the personnel will remain intact as it is. However, considering the taxes paid by the people, an obese prime minister’s office’s efficiency and productivity should be calculated.

The manpower of the Office of the Prime Minister was around 380 during former Prime Minister Koh Gun’s term and grew to 590 during former Prime Minister Lee’s term. That figure is larger than the number of personnel in Cheong Wa Dae, 560. The number of committees that the prime minister chairs jumped from 35, at the beginning of the participatory government, to 50. It seems that the Office of the Prime Minister leads the “large government” parade.

However, the office has not received positive evaluations that it is doing a good job as it grows bigger. The Board of Audit and Inspection announced last month, concerning the Office of the Prime Minister’s National Affairs and Office for Government Policy Coordination, “There is vast conflict or overlapping of tasks between ministries, public institutions, and local governments, but the coordination system is not functioning, and we plan to conduct special audits.” More than once did the Office of the Prime Minister stir trouble with the National Assembly, in particular with the opposition party, and disrupted national affairs. As shown in former Prime Minister Lee’s Independence Movement Day golf scandal, with power shifting to the Office of the Prime Minister, the prime minister and his close associates have become the targets of intensive lobbying.

At her inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Han showed the novelty of making 400 high government officials, ranging from ministers to vice ministers and bureau directors, sit randomly, regardless of rank. Yesterday she also ordered, “There are too many meetings and too many attendees; find a way to improve it.” It is viewed as an effort to come closer to the people and discard the rigid image of her predecessor.

However, what is important now is not such minor changes of format. What is required are the practical efforts of the Office of the Prime Minister itself to reduce unnecessary organizations and personnel, in order to save at least a penny from the taxpayer’s money. Prime Minister Han should consider whether all those organizations and personnel are appropriate and whether the countless committees are really necessary, and then apply the ax. With only the ideological amateurs in the Office of the Prime Minister and various committees removed, quite some taxpayer’s money will be saved. Obesity is dangerous for both humans and organizations.