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[Editorial] Realizing Growth Potential

Posted January. 28, 2008 08:39,   


South Korea ranked fifth among 16 countries in a survey on a nation’s future prosperity potential by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a Gallup International poll of some 60,000 individuals from the 16 nations, nations with abundant resources ranked higher: Nigeria ranked top followed by Kenya (second) and Venezuela (fourth). Hong Kong came in third on the back of China’s economic growth. We cannot but be proud of our country, which is not rich in natural resources, for being recognized as a country that has the potential for ushering in a bright future. Though a relatively small number of countries are being included in the survey, it is particularly meaningful because South Korea clinched the highest place among OECD members, beating emerging Asian powers such as India and Russia.

World-renowned French economist Jacques Attali, who is spearheading French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s bold reforms as head of a commission for France’s national growth, once forecast that Korea will join the ranks of world powers around 2050. There is no shortage of reports that rate Korea’s potential high. South Koreans’ capabilities were demonstrated when the nation rose again after the Asia-wide financial crisis and became the world’s 13th largest economy and 11th largest in trade by keeping in line with global standards.

However, we should not indulge in self-admiration. The nation’s future growth engine has significantly weakened under the five-year reign of the Roh administration that has been obsessed with balance and distribution. With failure to create jobs, the employment rate has stagnated at 63 percent over the past five years. To raise it to 67 to 68 percent, the medium level among OECD members, 500,000 new jobs should be created over the next five years. In addition, we are gravely under-prepared for an aging society, though the population is graying at the most rapid pace in the world.

Last year’s per-capita income was placed at $20,081, barely topping the current government-promised $20,000 mark. It took 12 years to reach the mark after breaking the $10,000 mark, lagging far behind advanced countries. This is due in large part to sluggish economic growth. Failure in furthering facility investment, suppression of service sector’s potential, instability in labor and management relations and low efficiency in research and development have hindered the nation’s growth.

Though suffering from a lack of natural resources such as oil and minerals, we possess superior human resources. At this critical juncture, a new administration comes to office. As the world already appreciated, the nation will be put on the track of prosperity soon if we change our mindset and make concerted efforts.