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Gov`t should step up deregulation drive
FEBRUARY 15, 2014 02:40  
Last August, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won pledged that the government would carry out a major overhaul of regulations that obstructed business activities. Back then, the Office for Government Policy Coordination under the prime minister announced a timetable for revision of 21 regulations as representative cases, saying, "We would constantly monitor if the changes are implemented in the field." The deregulation measures included allowing restaurants to have outdoor tables, which are common in Europe. However, the Dong-A Ilbo has found that the government lifted just three of seven regulations it had promised to eliminate by the end of last year.

The failure to keep the promise was not because of opposition parties` objections or failed attempts to revise relevant laws. Three of four regulations that remain intact could have been lifted just by revising the administration`s enforcement decrees or rules without seeking parliamentary approval. However, relevant government ministries are making only carefree excuses. An official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that the deregulation was his predecessor`s job and that he was not sure how the deregulation would help attract tourists. An official at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said, "I have been too busy with other tasks to pay attention."

During the Office for Government Policy Coordination`s policy briefing to President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday, she urged the office to reform regulations "with the spirit of Jindo dog," an indigenous dog species known for its bravery and tenacity. We want to ask what the prime minister has done about deregulation. The president said that the government has to steadily think about deregulation to the extent of dreaming about it in sleep. Does it not mean that the president and the government are working separately?

Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok asked a group of local businesspeople to show entrepreneurship as the government would drastically reform regulations. No matter how much the president, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister call for deregulation, they are incompetent if they are not aware of the reality, in which bureaucrats do not care about deregulation, or derelict in their duty if they are.

Deregulation cannot be achieved when bureaucrats do not act even if the president calls for it throughout her term in office. It is said that the government`s three-year economic reform plan to be announced by the finance minister calls for drastic deregulation aims at reinvigorating the sluggish economy. However, it would end up being yet another blueprint that looks good only on paper if bureaucrats fail to start with what they can do immediately about deregulation. The government should not blame opposition parties or interest groups for the slow progress in deregulation. Urging state-run organizations and their labor unions to reform is not all for deregulation. Without immediately reforming bureaucrats` attitude first, the Park Geun-hye administration`s deregulation drive could end up in failure.

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