Let me begin the 22nd Cabinet Meeting.
The Government has been responding to the worst economic crisis in history by taking rapid and bold emergency measures during five Emergency Economic Council meetings. Together with emergency funds for SMEs and self-employed microbusiness owners, focus has been placed on swift financial measures to prevent flagship businesses and key industries from going bankrupt. The Government has decided to provide emergency relief payments for the first time in history and also put emergency measures in place to help businesses maintain their work forces. These are all unconventional, unprecedented steps in substance and scale to provide urgent prescriptions designed to preemptively deal with the economic crisis and preserve jobs.
A full-fledged economic crisis is in store from this point on. Second-quarter economic growth is forecast to trend worse than the first quarter’s that already posted negative growth. It is true that Korea is doing relatively well compared with other advanced countries amidst this deep global economic downturn, but it is too difficult of a situation to expect an early economic rebound.
A contraction in the real economy and an unemployment shock are all the more worrisome going forward. Because such key industries as aviation, shipping and shipbuilding are also weighed down by difficulties, we are starting to see some businesses that can survive only if provided emergency funds. Exports stayed the course as much as possible up until March, but their downward trend began expanding by a large margin from April as the global economy ground to a halt.
Economic shocks that have no end in sight loom large on all fronts and in all areas. This is undeniably an economic wartime situation. Given this, the Government should be equipped with a national crisis management system to concentrate all of its capabilities on overcoming the crisis. I urge all ministries and agencies to rally behind the Central Economic Response Headquarters, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs. They should clearly identify their respective roles and come together in perfect harmony at the forefront of the efforts to surmount the crisis.
More than anything else, we must become a government that responds swiftly. The longer the implementation of measures drags on, the greater the damage and the more difficulties people and businesses will face. In this unprecedented crisis situation, decisions should be made boldly, and they should be carried out rapidly and accurately. I ask you to accelerate the implementations, starting with those measures already decided on at the Emergency Economic Council meetings.
I urge you to thoroughly prepare in advance to ensure that people receive their emergency relief payments quickly and conveniently as soon as the relevant bill is passed in the National Assembly. The application process should be waived for households that do not need to apply. I ask you to actively utilize online applications and other non-face-to-face procedures even when an application is necessitated.
With regard to a third supplementary budget proposal, the timing is essential. As a Government that decides and acts swiftly, we should become a reliable buttress for the people’s lives and the national economy.
With the time approaching for us to maintain safety precautions against COVID-19 while resuming our daily lives, we now have to prepare and implement measures to revitalize domestic demand. People will begin routine socioeconomic activities while complying with infectious disease prevention and control guidelines and regulations. Though measured in the beginning, those activities could become livelier as time goes by – if safety is maintained.
Accordingly, the Government needs to further move up the timetable to promote consumption. I urge you to quickly devise necessary measures that fit changing circumstances to earnestly reinvigorate consumption. These measures should include the full-scale implementation of vouchers and the swift enforcement of policies that the Government has already decided upon such as those to promote advanced payments and purchases.
I also urge you to prepare measures to promote investment as quickly as possible. I call upon you to actively seek more aggressive approaches that facilitate the investments which were suspended as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and that reflect the post-COVID-19 era.
As it will take time for the global economy to break free from recession, we have no other choice but to start economic recovery by revitalizing domestic demand for now. Comprehensive measures to help domestic demand rebound will be included in the third extraordinary budget bill, but before that, we must carry out what needs to be implemented right away and prepare what needs to be made ready.
I’d like to particularly call on all ministries and agencies to actively pursue a Korean-version of the New Deal for new job creation as a national project. I ask you to consider actively planning and pushing ahead with a large-scale, digital-based IT project that utilizes domestic technology and human resources by drawing on our strengths.
I urge you to use your imagination to identify various projects – not just non-face-to-face medical services, online education services and other areas that have gained attention during the COVID-19 outbreak, but also spreading smart cities based on state-of-the-art technology, combining digital technology with existing infrastructure developments and accumulating and organizing data for the digital economy. I would like to see large-scale national projects that have been postponed due to conflicts of interest being implemented quickly so that these can contribute to improving economic vitality and creating jobs in this time of crisis.
Amid this COVID-19 crisis situation, countries around the world are now engaging in unbridled competition to attract businesses. Our country has come to be seen as one of the safest manufacturing bases because no companies here suspended operations due to lockdowns or restrictions on movement thanks to our successful infectious disease prevention and control efforts. This can serve as an opportunity for us. I ask you to seek ways as soon as possible to boldly and actively attract investments and provide support so that our country can become a manufacturing base for global high-tech companies as well as for Korean companies reshoring after having relocated production overseas.
We are paving a new path in infectious disease prevention and control efforts and standing at the forefront of the world. We must open up a new path for surmounting an economic crisis as well. The newer the path, the more trials and errors encountered. Nonetheless, let’s not fear failures. With confidence and faith in the people’s potential, let’s pioneer a path toward becoming a leading nation that sets an example for overcoming a crisis and creating new opportunities.