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[Editorial] People-friendly, Biz-friendly

Posted September. 15, 2009 07:40,   


President Lee Myung-bak has shown more affection recently for the people, and this has raised his public approval rating. About business, however, he said, “If any price fixing is found, we must hold violators responsible.” New ruling Grand National Party leader Chung Mong-joon had a tight schedule of visiting Seoul’s Noryangjin Fish Market, and welfare facilities, but gave no answer to the Federation of Korean Industries’ proposal for a meeting.

This does not mean that the president and the party care for citizens only to raise their approval ratings because a people-friendly policy cannot be bad for business and vice versa. President Lee said at the end of last year, “Lifting the poor out of poverty is true welfare. To do so, giving them jobs is important and this is possible only when businesses can thrive.”

A good example of a pro-people policy President Lee declared in his Liberation Day speech Aug. 15 is a job creation project for those who want to work. The administration injected 1.7 trillion won (1.39 billion U.S. dollars) to create 250,000 jobs. Though necessary to help the vulnerable amid the economic crisis, the money could have been spent more productively had businesses created such jobs. This is why companies should be encouraged to create more jobs and pay their taxes.

Pro-people policies are not enough to create quality jobs. Though the number of employed decreased 200,000 in the first quarter, that in science and technology, health and welfare, and education has increased 262,000. Dramatic deregulation of the service industry creates jobs. Employees in this sector can get social security, including health insurance. People must know that pro-business policies like deregulation also help the people.

Businesses paid 39.2 trillion won (31.97 billion dollars) in corporate taxes last year, far higher than the 36.4 trillion won (29.69 billion dollars) in income taxes paid by individuals. When businesses thrive, corporate tax revenue increases. With this money, pro-people policies such as childcare subsidies and tuition support can be implemented. Since workers from a family of four earning less than 16.46 million won (13,430 dollars) per year get a tax credit, taxpaying workers account for just 49.6 percent of the total.

If the government cares nothing about business and is simply interested in raising its public approval rate through pro-people policies, the livelihood of Koreans could worsen. If the government truly cares about its citizens, it should handle militant unions that deprive workers of jobs and reform state-owned companies and their unions, which do not know how to serve the people.

In a meeting of chief secretaries at the presidential office, one said, “Caring for the people is good but (President Lee) should not make easy promises to them. It is said that meeting the president is like winning a lottery.” Just giving handouts is not enough. Providing healthy motivation is important as well.