Published : 2013-01-08 19:36
Updated : 2013-01-08 19:36
In a departure from the convention of holding extraordinary sessions on even-numbered months, the National Assembly is set to open a session later this month, possibly as early as next week. This session will be primarily geared toward helping President-elect Park Geun-hye launch her administration on Feb. 25.
One of the first tasks to be done is the revision of the government organization law, with President-elect Park determined to split some of the government agencies for the creation of new ministries. Another important task is for the National Assembly to hold hearings on candidates for the posts of prime minister and other Cabinet members.
In addition, the National Assembly is under mounting public pressure to make good on the political reform promises the political parties commonly made during their presidential campaigns last year. It is also called on to help prop up the flagging property market.
Given the nature of the January session, the main opposition Democratic United Party will have to be more cooperative this time in its relations with the ruling Saenuri Party.
In other words, it will have to keep itself unbiased in reviewing the proposals the president-elect makes to lay the foundation for her five-year governance and refrain from boycotting them if they have no serious flaws. It would not be honorable to attempt to tackle the president-elect for no good reason when she had yet to launch her administration.
In a similar vein, the president-elect and her party will have to take care not to provoke the opposition if they are to ensure that the government is reorganized in the way she desires and that its top posts are filled by her first choice candidates.
They need to be modest in calling for its cooperation. They need the tacit approval, if not the outright support, of the opposition if her administration is to get off to an auspicious start and pursue one of her grand goals ― reconciliation between rival regions and bridging the gap between different generations.
On the drawing board are three new ministries ― maritime, science and information technology. But the president-elect’s transition team is called on to think twice before making a final decision on her election promise to create the three ministries.
What the transition team needs to keep in mind is that a larger government does not necessarily mean a better public service. It needs to consider the possibility of obtaining the intended effect by readjusting the administrative work each concerned ministry is tasked with. Moreover, given the argument that the government has already grown too big, it may be still possible to make it smaller and, at the same time, make it more manageable, more responsive and more efficient.
Another urgent issue that needs to be dealt with during the upcoming extraordinary session is the president-elect’s campaign promise to extend the temporary tax cut for property acquisition. During her campaign, Park promised to extend the tax cut beyond its expiry on Dec. 31. But her party has since taken no action to revise the underlying tax law.
With the ruling party sitting on the proposal to extend the tax cut, the property market continues to take a drubbing. According to reports from realtors, the trade of apartments in Seoul’s metropolitan areas has come to a near halt. As a consequence, their prices have fallen for the 22nd consecutive month in January.
Belatedly, the Saenuri Party says it will seek to revise the tax law during the upcoming session. In response, the Democratic United Party promises to favorably consider the revision proposal. But the problem is that the revised law will not take effect immediately. If it is revised this month, the tax cut will be reinstated in mid-February because of procedural matters.
Another pending issue of great magnitude is political reform to which the rival parties committed themselves during their presidential campaigns. It ranges from abolishing the pension program for lawmakers and giving up some of the privileges bestowed on them to banning their doubling as Cabinet members and the year-round operation of the budget and settlement committee. The National Assembly will have to set up an ad hoc political reform committee and write revision bills this month if they are to avoid public censure.