Go to contents

[Editorial] ‘Emergency Mode Gov’t’ Sputtering

Posted February. 02, 2009 15:05,   


President Lee Myung-bak declared early this year that he will run the government in an "emergency economy rescue mode."

“The decision-making process of the government should also change as we are running the government in an emergency mode,” the president told a meeting of his secretaries last week, underlining prompt decision-making and execution.

His pledge on running the government in emergency mode, however, appears to be empty rhetoric. Yoon Jeung-hyun was tapped as finance minister Jan. 19, but his confirmation hearing is slated for Friday, almost 20 days after his nomination. No matter how much pressure is on outgoing Finance Minister Kang Man-soo to prevent a power vacuum, he is in a difficult situation to make important decisions. The main opposition Democratic Party constantly demanded Kang’s ouster, but seems unconcerned with helping his successor work any sooner.

Economic indices have fallen to levels reminiscent of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The Bank of Korea has provided 22 trillion won (15.95 billion U.S. dollars) to domestic financial markets, but the liquidity crunch is only aggravating. Youth unemployment will rise this month as hundreds of thousands of college students will graduate amid minus growth of the economy and jobs. The government has to handle tons of pressing matters including the second round of corporate restructuring and the prevention of another dollar liquidity crunch. Despite all this, the “emergency government” is idly waiting for a Cabinet reshuffle while making no effort to change the parliamentary schedule. Despite allegations of tax evasion, the confirmation hearing of U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was finished just six days after Barack Obama took office. Geithner is now spearheading the economic stimulus plans of the new administration.

In last week’s televised forum, President Lee said, “The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank predict that Korea will be the first country to overcome the economic crisis next year with growth of 4.2 percent, the highest among all countries.” But the truth is that the fund’s prediction of 4.2 percent in four newly industrialized nations including Korea was made in November last year. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s forecast of 4.2 percent economic growth was also made in the same month. Those figures, however, have been proven to be way off the mark due to the sharp deterioration in economic conditions. The IMF lowered its forecast to 3.1 percent just a day before President Lee’s televised debate and all other institutions also lowered their forecasts last month.

If the government is to run in an emergency mode, the president should at least be better informed with crucial real-time information and immediately replace key posts. If the government’s optimism is proven to be groundless, the people’s mistrust toward its policies will likely grow even more.