Let me begin the 13th Cabinet Meeting.
COVID-19 spreading into a global pandemic has not only brought infectious disease prevention and control frontlines around the world into a state of emergency but also dealt a severe blow to the economy. For this reason, concern is mounting about a possible global economic recession. The current situation is even more serious than the 2008 global financial crisis, which was prompted by a financial sector crisis. This crisis situation is undeniably complex: Not only day-to-day social activities but also consumption and production are becoming paralyzed, both supply and demand are rapidly contracting and the real economy and financial markets are being buffeted simultaneously.
The more serious problem is that the entire world is terrified of COVID-19, sealing off borders and restricting transnational movements. With the possibility of people-to-people exchanges grinding to a halt and the global supply chain being shaken at its roots, the economic impact can become far greater and prolonged. This is truly an unprecedented economic emergency.
As President – gravely aware of the present situation where the national economy is under serious threat – I intend to tackle these extraordinary economic challenges by mobilizing government-wide capabilities. An emergency economic council, presided over by myself, will decide on special measures and actions expeditiously and take strong countermeasures. I urge government officials to make swift preparations so that this council can be geared up right away.
This emergency economic council will be tantamount to a central economic response headquarters to help wade through this extraordinary economic situation. The council will become one of the two pillars, together with the central infectious disease prevention and control headquarters, for overcoming the emergency situations facing the economy and infectious disease prevention and control efforts. The Government must channel all of its energy into winning the war against COVID-19 while never lowering its guard in infectious disease prevention and control and, at the same time, make an extraordinary response to surmount the economic challenges. I urge all ministries and agencies to renew their fervent determination with the awareness that they are the main players in charge of helping safeguard and resuscitate our economy. The Government should come up with extraordinary economic measures in a rapid and bold manner.
I’d like to make a few requests.
First, as this is an unheard-of emergency situation, the countermeasures should be unprecedented as well. We should go beyond any constraint if it is deemed necessary to break through the current state of emergency. We cannot afford to be to be picky. We must mobilize all available resources and means, regardless of what they are, as long as they are effective measures. As timing is particularly important in extraordinary responses, decisions should be made decisively and their implementations should be expedited.
Second, the supplementary budget is not an end but a beginning. The Government has so far implemented various policy measures consecutively to stem the spread of COVID-19, support damage relief, provide emergency assistance for affected industries and sectors and even shore up the economy by submitting a supplementary bill in addition to this year’s budget. I urge you to do all you can to ensure that the approximately 32-trillion-won comprehensive plan is implemented as early as possible.
However, as relevant professionals have agreed, this amount is nowhere near enough in light of the demands on the scene. There are strong calls for additional extraordinary support measures to be devised in an unconventional manner. At a time when domestic demand is shrinking and the global economy is heading for a downturn as well, we should not hesitate to take more drastic measures, if we have no other choice, in order to protect our economy and our people’s livelihoods.
Third, we need to clarify policy priorities. First and foremost, we should be of help to those hit hardest. We have to ensure that vulnerable individuals and businesses can withstand this situation and carry on. In times of difficulty, the priority has to be on protecting the jobs of workers on the brink of unemployment and providing support for the people who are more susceptible – those who’ve lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet. In addition, we should focus on playing the role of a bulwark so that those microbusiness owners and the self-employed directly hit by economic contraction will not fall into ruin.
In particular, we should never lower our guard, even the slightest bit, during crisis management. While swiftly responding to anxieties in the financial and foreign exchange markets, necessary liquidity should be provided in a timely manner so that businesses do not go bankrupt due to financial constraints. Through these preemptive measures, we should focus our efforts on preventing economic fundamentals from crumbling and keeping the situation from deteriorating further.
While striving to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control, we should prepare to take full-fledged measures in order to intensively boost domestic demand and consumption. Many countries across the globe will also be implementing massive stimulus packages. I ask you to channel all of your capabilities into utilizing these to create momentum for the rebound of our economy.
The Government will surmount the current crisis with extraordinary resolve and exceptional volition. I ask the people to join forces not only as principal agents in the infectious disease prevention and control efforts but also as the main economic players. Thank you.