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[Editorial] High Hopes or Wishful Ones?

Posted August. 31, 2006 06:56,   


The government revealed yesterday a report titled “Vision 2030” where it laid out a rosy vision according to which “the nation joins the ranks of advanced countries by 2010 and makes a leap toward becoming one of world’s top countries by 2020.”

Developing countries such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia have long-term national development plans than envision a future 20 or 30 years from now. Therefore, it was worrisome that Korea, the 12th largest economy in the world, has not had a single blueprint for its mid-and long-term development in place. However, the likelihood of the “Vision 2030” being realized seems not high. For example, in the report, the government says that the employment rate will go up, and that the labor-management relations will turn into a cooperative one and the discrimination against irregular workers will be mitigated. However, it is hardly mentioned in the report through what course of actions the government is going to make that happen.

To realize the vision will take 1,100 trillion won in forms of supplementary budget from 2010. To this end, Koreans will have to pay more tax money, which will amount to 330,000 won per capita a year. For Koreans, whose purses have already grown lean because tax burdens, national pension contributions, and health insurance contributions have risen faster than their income, this is not a vision for a “hopeful Korea,” but “a prior notice of tax bombs.”

The way through which the government intends to make the vision a reality is also worrisome. The Korean economy fails to reach the global economic growth rate for the third year in a row. However, in the report, few viable ways to bring about the economic revitalization are to be seen. The government has to ensure the reinvigoration of the private sector by easing regulations and realigning institutions to facilitate investments. However, no such plans are found in the report. Tax cuts are necessary in order to attract foreign capital, but the government is going in the opposite direction.

In the past, “Economic growth first and welfare later” was a phrase that captured the government’s long-term vision for the nation’s development. However, we can find in the report that the government changed it into “a simultaneous growth of the economy and welfare.” Referring to this, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “We have to move away from the time when investments in the economic development and investments in the social development were viewed separately and switch to investments that serve both goals.” To this end, the government will significantly increase proportion of welfare budget to the entire budget to 40 percent by 2030 from the current 25 percent. On the contrary, the proportion of budget for the economic growth will drop drastically from the current 20 percent to 10 percent. It’s a typical “code vision.” Is the government determined to hold back investments and dash cold water on growth engine?

All these are likely to become the focus of controversies in the presidential election next year. Moreover, they will likely be abolished if the current opposition parties win the election. A long-term vision for the nation’s development should not be made if it is to be altered or scrapped depending on changes in political situation.