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New Finance Minister Begins Term

Posted March. 10, 2008 03:00,   


Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo is considered the control tower of the administration’s economic team. Though his position is technically no longer that of a deputy prime minister, Kang is expected to continue playing a similar role over his term.

○ De facto deputy prime minister

Kang visited a traditional market with Prime Minister Han Seung-soo last week and construction sites Saturday in Pangyo, a suburb of Seoul, to witness the shortage of construction materials.

A construction manager told the minister, “If steel prices rise further, there will be problems in construction.”

Kang then urged his staff, “Find and crack down on those who hoard construction materials from the iron bar manufacturing process to construction sites and tax those who make unfair profits.”

The ministries of strategy and finance, knowledge economy, land and transport, and homeland and maritime affairs and the National Tax Service held an unscheduled briefing Sunday. They announced a stronger crackdown on iron bar hoarding to take effect Tuesday.

○ Interest in financial policy

Kang held a meeting with Bank of Korea Governor Lee Seong-tae Friday and a luncheon with Financial Services Commission Chairman Jun Kwang-woo Saturday. Kang said financial policy plays a critical role in managing macroeconomic policy and that the commission should closely cooperate with the Finance Ministry.

In addition, Kang asked Jun to allow certain high-ranking ministry officials and directors to be assigned to the commission.

The ministry is expected to give the power of financial policy planning over to the commission after government reorganization. Kang’s meeting with Jun, however, is seen as an implication that financial policy will not completely be out of the hands of the ministry.

○ Ministry briefing sessions for president

Minister Kang also plans to attend the majority of ministry briefing sessions for President Lee Myung-bak. The finance minister is the only Cabinet member to attend other ministries’ briefings.

A ministry official said, “Under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the Finance and Economy Ministry was the ministry of a deputy prime minister, but it had no budget power due to lack of leverage in persuading other ministries or coordinating policies. The strategy and finance minister will be more influential thanks to more budget power.”

Nineteen ministers and deputy ministers attended the first economic policy coordination meeting Friday held by Kang at the Gwacheon government complex.

higgledy@donga.com legman@donga.com