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Seeing through the smokescreen

Jan 02,2020
It’s commonplace to start the New Year with a heavy heart. Breadwinners in their middle age cannot find a decent job and must rely on temporary positions that come their way. Taking the family to a restaurant has become a luxury after menu prices shot up due to steep hikes in the minimum wage. Although the headline inflation rate hovers at zero and makes policy wonks worry about deflation, grocery bills have gone up due to hikes in prices of ready-made meals and other popular foods. Despite criticisms, the Moon Jae-in government remains out of touch with the real world and sticks with its signature “income-led growth” policy.

Manufacturing capacity has declined for 16 consecutive months and the factory operation rate stood at 71.8 percent in November. Jobs in the manufacturing sector have been declining for 20 straight months.

Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Employers Federation, defined 2019 as a year in which government policy hurt companies. He asked the Moon administration to change its policies to stimulate corporate activity. Park Yong-mann, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in teary voice that he was so frustrated by the ridiculous excuses authorities and lawmakers came up with to block deregulation that he felt like hitting his head against a wall.

They are not exaggerating. Rigid regulations and an inflexible labor market are stifling companies and draining life from our economy. The government refuses to pay heed. Hong Nam-ki, deputy prime minister for the economy, claims to be certain of an economic rebound. Last year, he promised a tangible improvement by year-end. The public knows a smokescreen when it sees one.

We may face another gloomy 12 months if the government continues to stay on its business-unfriendly and pro-union path. It must wake up and devote itself to innovation and reform to give hope to the people and the economy.