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[Editorial] Screen out pledges

Moon should be willing to revise or scrap campaign promises

Published: 2017-05-14 17:47
Updated: 2017-05-14 17:47
The Moon Jae-in administration’s decision to launch the policy planning and advisory committee which will work as a transition team was appropriate and necessary.

For a government inaugurated without a transition period, it is urgent to set the framework of policies for the next five years as early as possible.

Also in light of opposition majority in the National Assembly, revising or repealing campaign pledges, many of them requiring legislation, are inevitable. They cannot but go nowhere without support from opposition parties. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea holds 120 seats, far less than 180 seats required for the passage of a bill.

The committee will be tasked with reviewing Moon’s campaign promises, prioritizing policies and drawing up road maps for their implementation. His campaign pledges include urgent ones such as creating jobs, providing affordable homes and expanding welfare, and long-term ones such as finding growth momentum.

It would be desirable in view of the reliability of the government to keep as many campaign promises as possible, and yet there is no reason to be constrained by them. Well-intentioned and well-guided pledges do not mean all of them should be enforced. Essential as a pledge may look, many questions should be asked before it is carried out. Is it infeasible? If feasible, how can it be funded? What are the ways to minimize its side effects? Is it needed right away or can it be approached over a long time? Cool-headed judgement is required.

If a pledge is unrealistic or fiscally too burdensome, it needs to be reconsidered. A wrong-headed policy may not have immediate side effects, but it will certainly harm the nation over a long time. Populist pledges should be screened out for a healthy government administration.

The Moon campaign estimated the total costs of all its pledges at 178 trillion won ($106 billion). To raise the required funds, it plans to cut corners, reform tax schemes and as a last resort raise taxes, but it is questionable how effective and desirable those methods are. Downscaling or revoking pledges is necessary.

According to a local newspaper’s survey of opinion leaders, 78 percent of them cited a pledge to create 810,000 jobs in the public sector as undesirable. It was also the most disputed promise throughout the presidential campaign.

Moon vowed to create 170,000 jobs in the government and 640,000 jobs in public enterprises and institutions over five years. As a candidate, Moon estimated the cost of the pledge at 21 trillion won, but set aside merely 4 trillion won of it for the 640,000 jobs. The portion of wages public enterprises and institutions should pay was not counted. In the TV debates, Moon’s rival candidates criticized the pledge for intentionally understating the cost.

More worrisome than controversial cost estimation is that once 810,000 more people are recruited in the public sector, the next government will be unavoidably burdened with these personnel expenses, which will rise annually to reflect price increases. Once employees are hired, it is hard to reduce manpower. To fund swelling payrolls, raising taxes and public utility fees will be inevitable.

Undoubtedly, job creation is imperative, but a myopic policy which could leave a serious aftermath should be avoided, even if it may work in the short term.

Difficult as it may sound, the right solution is to create jobs in the private sector through investments. The Moon government should refrain from hiring more officials for the sake of reducing unemployment.

Job creation, one of Moon’s top priorities, is not the only campaign vow in need of scrutiny. The committee should screen every pledge thoroughly, and Moon should have an attitude and courage to revise or scrap them, even though he may have trumpeted them during his campaign.

Management of state affairs is reality. Candidacy is different from presidency. There is nothing wrong with revising or abandoning pledges if they are bad ideas. It is the first step to going in the right direction.The Moon Jae-in administration’s decision to launch the policy planning and advisory committee which will work as a transition team was appropriate and necessary.

For a government inaugurated without a transition period, it is urgent to set the framework of policies for the next five years as early as possible.

Also in light of opposition majority in the National Assembly, revising or repealing campaign pledges, many of them requiring legislation, are inevitable. They cannot but go nowhere without support from opposition parties. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea holds 120 seats, far less than 180 seats required for the passage of a bill.

The committee will be tasked with reviewing Moon’s campaign promises, prioritizing policies and drawing up road maps for their implementation. His campaign pledges include urgent ones such as creating jobs, providing affordable homes and expanding welfare, and long-term ones such as finding growth momentum.

It would be desirable in view of the reliability of the government to keep as many campaign promises as possible, and yet there is no reason to be constrained by them. Well-intentioned and well-guided pledges do not mean all of them should be enforced. Essential as a pledge may look, many questions should be asked before it is carried out. Is it infeasible? If feasible, how can it be funded? What are the ways to minimize its side effects? Is it needed right away or can it be approached over a long time? Cool-headed judgement is required.

If a pledge is unrealistic or fiscally too burdensome, it needs to be reconsidered. A wrong-headed policy may not have immediate side effects, but it will certainly harm the nation over a long time. Populist pledges should be screened out for a healthy government administration.

The Moon campaign estimated the total costs of all its pledges at 178 trillion won ($106 billion). To raise the required funds, it plans to cut corners, reform tax schemes and as a last resort raise taxes, but it is questionable how effective and desirable those methods are. Downscaling or revoking pledges is necessary.

According to a local newspaper’s survey of opinion leaders, 78 percent of them cited a pledge to create 810,000 jobs in the public sector as undesirable. It was also the most disputed promise throughout the presidential campaign.

Moon vowed to create 170,000 jobs in the government and 640,000 jobs in public enterprises and institutions over five years. As a candidate, Moon estimated the cost of the pledge at 21 trillion won, but set aside merely 4 trillion won of it for the 640,000 jobs. The portion of wages public enterprises and institutions should pay was not counted. In the TV debates, Moon’s rival candidates criticized the pledge for intentionally understating the cost.

More worrisome than controversial cost estimation is that once 810,000 more people are recruited in the public sector, the next government will be unavoidably burdened with these personnel expenses, which will rise annually to reflect price increases. Once employees are hired, it is hard to reduce manpower. To fund swelling payrolls, raising taxes and public utility fees will be inevitable.

Undoubtedly, job creation is imperative, but a myopic policy which could leave a serious aftermath should be avoided, even if it may work in the short term.

Difficult as it may sound, the right solution is to create jobs in the private sector through investments. The Moon government should refrain from hiring more officials for the sake of reducing unemployment.

Job creation, one of Moon’s top priorities, is not the only campaign vow to scrutinize. The committee should screen every pledge thoroughly, and Moon should have an attitude and courage to revise or scrap ones, even though he may have trumpeted them during his campaign.

Management of state affairs is reality. Candidacy is different from presidency. Revising or abandoning pledges is nothing wrong. It is the first step to go in the right direction.
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