Go to contents

[Editorial] Presidential Candidates Need Good Campaign Pledges

[Editorial] Presidential Candidates Need Good Campaign Pledges

Posted October. 20, 2007 03:11,   


The current administration has been inefficient and has spent frivolously by increasing the number of civil servants and restructuring itself 558 times. For the past four years, the number of public officials has increased by 57,000, and the overhead cost has amounted to an additional five trillion won a year. On top of that, there are countless committees so no one really knows what is going on. Big government and public organizations have resulted in a waste of precious tax money. What this huge government has been doing most of the time is creating more unnecessary red tape.

The Ministry of Information and Technology has invested 23.9 billion won in developing dual use technologies, but it cost 42 million won just to transfer them. This gave the ministry a mere 0.2% profit from the project. No private company would get involved in such an unprofitable business. Five local land management administrations spent 1.5 trillion won to change road designs 506 times over the last three years.

The privatization of public companies has stalled, and the seriousness of the moral hazards displayed by their employees has gone through the roof. Employees at the Korea Welfare Labor Corporation spent their budget on playing golf, which was one of their daily pastime activities. The money was also used to shop in department stores and purchase cell phones. There are so many public companies that have been involved in illegal wrongdoing and corruption that no one really feels remorse for what they have done. As many as 4,038 civil servants spent 11.2 billion won on traveling abroad right before their retirement last year.

Such inefficiencies and corruption create a domino effect, distorting the decision-making processes of the private sector and undermining Korea’s market principles. In short, waste in the public sector hampers the economy as a whole, which is the reason why economic reform has to begin at the public level. This is what advanced economies such as New Zealand, Ireland, Britain, Germany and France did in the past. However, the Roh administration has disregarded public and government sector reforms, even though it has been touting that everything it does is to drive innovation.

In this regard, the next administration has its job cut out for it. Bold restructuring measures need to be adopted to use tax money efficiently, and to maximize creativity and dynamism in the private sector. The Government Information Agency, which does not exist in advanced countries, needs to be abolished, even though it does not carry out anti-democratic activities.

Reform in the government and public sector needs to be complete within the first or second years of the new administration because after that, it will be more and more difficult. Implementing such reform measures benefits people more than a gabfest of, “We will help people be better off.” It is time that presidential candidates come out and fulfill their campaign pledges, which will be judged by their constituents for their viability and feasibility, among other features.