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[Op-Ed] Human New Deal

Posted March. 24, 2009 09:40,   


The Presidential Council for Future and Vision has announced the “Human New Deal” to support the middle class. The venture seeks to cut private education, housing and medical costs while investing in developing human resources. Bearing in mind criticism that its economic stimulus plan is only reviving the construction industry, the government released this plan suggesting that it will find a growth engine through people. The focus on making private education cheaper and reforming college entrance exams deserves applause if significant progress is reached.

The widening gap between rich and poor is a global phenomenon. The Gini coefficient in Korea, which indicates the imbalance in income distribution, increased from 0.295 in 1998 to 0.366 in 2007. A Gini coefficient reading of one is considered the most imbalanced condition. Since real household income decreased and the property and stock markets, which had propped up the Korean middle class, contracted last year, people are slipping into poverty. They are the so-called new poor. Once into poverty, they can hardly return to the middle class.

Many countries are implementing plans to increase income or cutting costs to stop the collapse of the middle class, a demographic segment which plays a critical role in times of economic crisis. Under the slogan “A Strong Middle Class Equals a Strong America,” U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing a grand plan to make 95 percent of Americans middle class. More specific plans include creating jobs in the environmental sector, providing tax benefits to companies that generate jobs, cutting taxes for the working class, and strengthening public education. Japan is providing aid for housing and releasing policies for reemployment in the face of rising joblessness.

The Lee Myung-bak administration has coined many words to attract public attention: green New Deal; Small Deal; a practicing Cabinet; speed war; war room; and a senior council for great people. There is nothing to complain about a government trying to revive the middle class through all possible means. But I want to ask the administration if it has produced appropriate results as it claims with grand slogans. The Human New Deal should not end up as just a slogan on the wall.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)