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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 5)

All News 09:30 May 05, 2022

Major national tasks
Concrete plans needed to implement initiatives

The presidential transition committee on Tuesday announced 110 national tasks to be pursued by the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration. The initiatives are designed to promote four values -- national interests, pragmatism, fairness and common sense -- with the motto of ensuring "another leap for the Republic of Korea: a nation of people living well together."

The initiatives are focused on revitalizing the economy by allowing the private sector to take the lead, while regulations will be eased or lifted, and taxation will be reorganized. As a priority task, the committee cited assistance to the small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unveiling the tasks, the committee demonstrated a strong will to differentiate the next administration from the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration, which has come under fire by some in the business circle for excessive regulations.

The committee has offered detailed measures regarding the rescheduling of debt payments and other financial assistance for the poor and the socioeconomically vulnerable. To lay the groundwork for future economic growth, it aims to enable Korea to join the ranks of the world's top five countries in science and technology.

The panel also decided to scrap President Moon's nuclear energy phase-out policy. Thus, the construction of Shin Hanul 3 and 4 nuclear power stations will resume immediately, and efforts will be made to export 10 nuclear reactors by 2030. The tasks also include a plan to build more than 2.5 million homes to stabilize the housing market and ease the property tax burden, especially on owners of multiple homes.

What matters is how the next government will be able to secure the budget necessary to implement such tasks. The committee estimates that these initiatives will require an additional 209 trillion won ($165 billion) over the next five years. It has stressed the need to restructure budget spending and raise tax revenue by speeding up the economic recovery. Yet such a plan draws skepticism in view of the growing inflationary pressure and other downside risks.

The incoming administration plans to abide by Yoon's campaign pledge to increase dramatically monthly welfare stipend for each enlisted soldier to 2 million won, though not immediately as promised but in stages by 2025. The stipends will readjust when the pay raise is made, taking budgetary constraints into account. It has failed to specify how it will finance the salary hike. However, the committee has yet to present how to push for pension reform, despite the urgency of doing so amid rapid population aging and the falling birthrate. It has only vowed to set up a panel to discuss the issue.

"The economy is faced with grave challenges due to difficult situations, internally and externally. What is more important is how to carry out the tasks beyond setting out such initiatives," President-elect Yoon said. That's true. The next administration should not repeat the mistakes committed by previous administrations which were long on words but short on action.
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