May 14, 2019 13:57
The finance minister met with the head of the nationwide transportation labor union on Monday but failed to reach an agreement as city bus drivers are set to go on strike Wednesday. The reason for the planned strike is that their working week is about to be mandatorily shortened to 52 hours. The only solution the government has been able to come up with so far is to raise bus fares, though the ruling Minjoo Party on Monday proposed turning more city bus operators into semi-public entities that receive massive government subsidies.
Yet the government has known for over a year that bus operators will have to shorten the working hours of drivers this July, and it has done nothing to forestall any strikes or cutting of routes. Now, city bus operators are demanding that the government foot the added cost of hiring more drivers, and bus drivers are threatening to go on strike unless the government makes up for their lost income. A mere W200 increase in the city bus fare would raise the monthly expenses of a four-member household by W480,000 (US$1=W1,188). Why should the public clean up the mess the government created?
In another ill-thought-out move, the government also announced the selection of new satellite towns near Seoul, which has prompted residents of older new towns nearby to protest. They are fuming at the short-sightedness of officials who announced new dormitory towns that are closer to the capital than theirs when there is already an oversupply of housing, which will inevitably slash the value of their homes.
Earlier, the Moon Jae-in administration drastically hiked the minimum wage by almost 30 percent over the last two years, putting many small businesses out of work or causing them to lay off workers. The government's solution to that mess was to earmark W6 trillion in taxpayers' money to subsidize them. It spent another W77 trillion to create temporary jobs for senior citizens and menial jobs for the low-income people to make the employment figures look less devastating. Then the government hastily declared a nuclear-free energy policy, which resulted in turning financially sound state utility KEPCO and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power into money-losing propositions. The solution, of course, will be to raise electricity fees or again tap into taxpayers' money.
The government keeps turning to the taxpayer to pay for every mistake it makes. A government exists to solve problems and deal with difficulties citizens face, not to create more of them and then hand them the bill. But in Korea, the government is like a child that wants to be rewarded with a better toy for every one it breaks.
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