President pledges to reform public firms, spur growth
Published : 2014-01-06 20:51
Updated : 2014-01-07 16:50
Entering her second year in office, President Park Geun-hye said she would implement a three-year economic plan in a bid to reform the nation’s economy and promote the public’s happiness within her term.
“I will open an era of happiness of the people by establishing and implementing a three-year economic innovation plan,” the president said Monday in a press conference marking the new year.
“Korea’s potential growth rate will rise above the 4 percent level, while national income will approach $40,000 over the next three years, and the employment rate climbs to 70 percent or higher with more jobs going around for young people and women,” Park said, promising renewed prosperity once her plans take off.
The president also pledged to build up the necessary infrastructure to minimize the social and economic costs of inter-Korean reunification, which she cited as a crucial prerequisite to the nation’s happiness.
Broken down, Park’s economic blueprint largely involves three key strategies, namely normalizing the public sector, implementing the creative economy initiative and revitalizing the economy.
“The total amount of debt currently held by public organizations exceeds that of the government, and several companies are not even capable of paying off their bank interest,” Park said.
She was particularly critical of the state-run rail operator KORAIL, which is struggling with an accumulated debt of 17.6 trillion won ($16.5 billion) and an ongoing unionized strike amid privatization disputes.
“As shown in the KORAIL case, irresponsible management has long eaten away at the competitiveness of public organizations,” she said, displaying her determination to push through with reforms at the rail operator despite the union’s backlash.
She also criticized the organizations involved in the nuclear corruption scandal last year, which led to the suspension of several local nuclear reactors and thus resulted in a nationwide power shortage during the summer heat wave.
The president also pledged to boost the country’s economy through her slogan of “creative economy” and to achieve an economic balance by revitalizing the stagnant domestic market.
As a part of those plans, Park said she would be forming a committee with the private sector ― consisting of venture companies, SMEs and conglomerates ― to better enforce the creative economy initiative.
The corporate sector appeared to welcome the plans, but many criticized them for lacking credibility and for too closely resembling her father’s economic revival plans more than four decades ago.
“It was like a copied revision of the economic development plan of the third and fourth republics,” said Rep. Kim Kwan-young, spokesperson of the main opposition Democratic Party.
The remark referred to the five-year economic plan created by Park’s father, former President Park Chung-hee, back in the 1960s.
The Federation of Korean Industries, on the other hand, issued a statement welcoming the president’s focus on economic revitalization.