The transition team’s job to build a policy blueprint for the incoming administration was put to the test over the weekend as it faced calls from some incumbent government officials to revise or supplement President-elect Park Geun-hye’s campaign pledges.
The handover committee started to receive a weeklong policy briefing from government branches Friday. However, it seemed perplexed with some key government ministries directly expressing the difficulty of turning her pledges into actual policy.
Referring to budget constraints and possible collisions with existing policies or systems, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Defense expressed their opposition to some of Park’s campaign promises such as a monthly cash allowance of 200,000 won ($190) for all senior citizens and a plan to curtail the compulsory military service period to 18 months from the current 21.
Calling it an “inappropriate gesture,” the committee on Saturday sharply criticized the ministries for being selfish and unwilling to solve problems “from the people’s point of view.” The team also reiterated that Park’s pledges already underwent feasibility and fiscal checks during the campaign period and that it aims to help the president-elect to fulfill all of her proposals.
However, the question remains of how the handover team will handle the conflicting opinions and reassure the public of Park’s new and ambitious policy drive. Some critics say that the committee could not help but revise a few of Park’s campaign pledges after the weeklong reality check or play the ultimate card: a tax boost.
The Ministry of Health on Friday reported to the committee that it would be almost impossible to implement the proposed plan to expand state subsidies and medical support to elderly, low-income and general citizens. The ministry claimed that it would need to secure 50 trillion won for the next five years to carry out Park’s welfare programs, almost double the 28.3 trillion won which Park had calculated during the presidential campaign.
The committee is also expected to face a strong backlash from younger people as they learn that the new government may use their money in the national pension fund to partly pay for the budget for the elderly pension program.
Park’s plan to reduce the military service term also sparked concerns among defense officials about its possible impact on the strength of national defense.
The ministry said during the briefing that the plan should be reviewed carefully because it would leave the military suffering from an annual shortage of 27,000 troops by 2030. Hiring non-commissioned officers to cover the shortage would cost 700 billion won a year, it added.
Other government branches are also opposed to Park’s idea.
The prosecution reportedly delivered a compromise plan to disband the Central Investigation Department at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office but to keep or transfer its commanding function to district prosecution offices. The law enforcement agency also suggested to cut down the number of superintendent-level prosecutors by nine from the current 54 seats, far fewer than what the president-elect wished for.
To disperse the prosecution’s excessive power, Park vowed to abolish the controversial investigative body and reduce the number of high-level prosecutors who have authorities equivalent to vice ministers in other government branches.
Financial authorities also expressed concerns over Park’s proposal to allow property owners to sell shares of their property to state-run agencies and use the proceeds to finance their debts. The plan that assigns the government a mediating role between debtors and creditors would seriously infringe on free-market principles, they said.
On education reform, the committee is pressured to offer clear guidelines to some of Park’s proposals to prevent chaos in the country’s highly competitive education market.
Aimed at curbing spending on private institutions and improving the role of public schools, the president-elect has vowed to ban prerequisite learning and to have one semester free of tests along with an evaluation process for their career planning.
“It will be very difficult to distinguish between essential preparation study and unnecessary pre-study,” an education council member said.
The policy briefing on education to the transition committee is scheduled for Tuesday.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org