[Editorial] Problems of policy tasks

By Korea Herald

Government should let go of obsession with election pledges, implement policies flexibly

  • Published : Jul 21, 2017 - 18:18
  • Updated : Jul 21, 2017 - 18:18
The 100 policy tasks recently revealed by President Moon Jae-in’s de facto transition team form a blueprint of what he will endeavor to do during his five-year presidency.

They can be summarized into job creation creation, strengthening welfare and eliminating “evils.”

The No. 1 policy task is the eradication of evils, including the reinvestigation of the corruption scandal that brought down the previous administration.

As one of the most important tasks, the team demanded the prosecution prove the people it had indicted were guilty.

The trial of former President Park Geun-hye is an important matter, but no one but prosecutors should engage in the job of proving her guilty.

The team has adopted the reinvestigation and settlement of past events as the No. 3 policy task behind anti-corruption reforms.

The May 18, 1980 democracy movement in Gwangju will be investigated again. Victims of an anti-communist suppression campaign from April 1948 to May 1949 in Jeju will be given a chance again to declare to the government that they were victimized.

The government will also seek to enact a related law and establish a foundation to settle past events.

The past administrations of Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moon-hyun also reinvestigated past events.

How many times should they be reinvestigated before they are settled completely?

Reinvestigation of past incidents may lead to the reinterpretation of history and ideological conflicts. It is far from encouraging integration and cooperation.

Opposition parties raised issue with Moon’s launch of anti-corruption meetings of law enforcement and intelligence chiefs, denouncing them an attempt at political retaliation.

Eliminating corruption is a pressing issue but the administration should see to it that there will be no complaint that the task is being carried out for political advantage.

The team decided to expand public-sector employment to create jobs -- to the tune of 810,000 new positions. The government will also give every young job seeker 300,000 won ($267) over three months to help them find jobs.

Allowances will be given to children for infants to 5-year-olds. The monthly basic pension will be raised 100,000 won.

The Moon government’s flagship policy is to increase the number of civil servants by 174,000 during his five-year term. The team estimated the required cost at 8.2 trillion won.

But the National Assembly Budget Office estimates the cost at 28.55 trillion won inclusive of allowances and such costs as pension and health insurance payments shared by the state.

Public servants’ turnover rate is relatively low. If they work for 30 years before retirement, 1.7 billion won is spent on a civil servant over that span. Keeping 174,000 civil servants on payroll for three decades will require 327 trillion won in taxpayers’ money. If their postretirement pensions are reflected, the cost rises to 350 trillion won.

The problem is the source of the required funds.

The team estimates 178 trillion won is needed over five years. It said it could raise the money without raising taxes.

It expects 82.6 trillion won to come from eliminating or reducing tax exemptions and 95.4 trillion won from reducing fiscal spending.

It is questionable if it will be possible to raise the funds as it expects without raising taxes.

There are new factors requiring fiscal injection. Next year alone, 3 trillion won will be given to financially strapped small businesses and self-employed people to subsidize the sharp increase in the minimum wage.

If two nuclear power plants, the construction of which has been suspended by the Moon government, are scrapped altogether, 2.6 trillion won in losses will be incurred.

These are not mentioned in the policy blueprint.

It may be difficult for a new government to revise election pledges right away.

The team modified them, but forcing the implementation of them rigidly may cause irreparable side effects.

The key to successful state administration lies in implementing policies flexibly in accordance with the times and economic feasibility.