Friday, November 19, 2004

Back in DC

My whirlwind tour to Korea that involved far too much work is over. Information about the conference, Managing Fiscal Risks and Realigning the Sectoral Resource Allocation is now up on the KDI site. The information is in Korean but the files it links to are in English as the conference was in English to accommodate guests from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Mongolia.

The main thrust of the schedule looked Korea's plans to introduce program budgeting as a means of improving management of fiscal risk and resource allocation decision-making, among other objectives.

As Professor Allen Schick notes in his paper on the assessment of Korea's reforms, the sheer size and magnitude of reform plans in Korea is breathtaking. I think this is not surprising to many familiar with Korea. I got the chance to read an evaluation of Korea's plans for the World Expo 2010 which were noted politely as "very ambitious" (read: completely over the top). It seems that the success of economic development and speed with which it was accomplished has led Koreans to think that everything must also proceed with the same breakneck speed and is assured success merely by having the right 'can do' attitude. While it would certainly be good if Korea is successful in becoming better at managing and spending public money for the good of society, it seems to me, after attending the conference, that a slower pace would be more prudent. This is especially so given the emphasis on the need to change the institutional culture to match procedural reforms and my own impression that Korea's organisational culture with its rigid hierarchy and close link with wider social norms will be VERY difficult to change. For example, introducing a performance-based system and flat hierarchy in the old-school style work place that is Korea's public sector when such casual relations are not even common in a family structure will be a mammoth task. Not to mention hopes of establishing a culture of consensus building among the National Assembly, the President's Office and political parties!

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui