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Study Promotes 3-phase Provincial Redrawing Plan

Posted October. 07, 2008 03:22,   


The results of a study released yesterday said provincial governments should be integrated in three phases over seven to 10 years, with residents having the final say in reforming the country’s administrative districts.

The government should also tolerate overcapacity of officials to appear as a result of administrative district reform over 10 years, the report added.

Five billion won (3.94 million U.S. dollars) in special allocation tax was also proposed for provincial cities and counties, along with local allocation tax.

The Public Administration and Safety Ministry submitted a report on the study to ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Kim Tae-won, a member of the parliamentary public administration and safety committee.

The research was conducted by a society on provincial governments at the ministry’s request.

▽ Three-phase plan

The plan calls for a bill tentatively named the Act on the Integration of Provincial Governments to reorganize administrative districts.

Leading the integration would be joint committees of provincial governments, following the example of Japan in setting up joint committees to integrate provincial cities and districts. The committees can generate integration plans in accordance with guidelines suggested by the ministry.

The first phase to span two to three years is establishment of an administrative, financial and legal foundation, along with the launch of related authorities. The second lasting five to seven years is sharing infrastructure such as waste disposal facilities and drainage system and exchange of government officials. The third covering seven to 10 years is a referendum.

The report cited political interest groups and resistance of officials as the biggest obstacles to integration. Thus the government was advised to guarantee the tenure of provincial assembly members and maintain their number in the first local elections after integration.

To deal with overlapping human resources, the report said the government should guarantee members’ tenure for 10 years to help them adjust to reassignment and restructuring.

The special allocation tax finances integration of provincial governments. The report, however, suggests that the central government be responsible for the required amount for integration and grant a special allocation tax of five billion won to cities and counties set for elimination.

The local allocation tax is equal to the tax revenue collected before integration and given to provincial governments subject to removal five years after integration. The report proposed extending the period to 10 years and for the central government to compensate for the reduced budget to provincial governments in the form of special financial support.

▽ New centralization of power

The report also assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the reform measure discussed by political and academic circles.

The proposed reduction of provincial governments from 246 to between 40 and 70 was considered good in that it improves administrative efficiency and strengthens self-governance. The main drawback cited, however, was the possibility of a new centralization since the measure encourages central government intervention in the management of provincial authorities.

The report said the “five plus two economic blocs” proposal suggested by the Lee Myung-bak administration could lead to economy of scale, but cannot decentralize political power without the central government’s effort to transfer power.

The plan to divide the country into four or five regions could enable the creation of independent administrative and economic units such as Shanghai, China, or Tokyo, Japan, but discourages political participation by residents, it said.