SEJONG, Jan. 4 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea’s finance minister said Monday that it is necessary to push for sweeping reforms in all sectors in order to succeed in a tough environment in the new year and achieve its economic goal.
“We will face a more difficult environment in the new year. Global uncertainties are high due to low oil prices, higher U.S. interest rates and a slowdown in emerging economies,” Minister of Strategy and Finance Choi Kyung-hwan said in his New Year’s message.
“Weak global demand and technological development by emerging nations will weigh heavily on our exports.”
Choi pointed out that mounting corporate and household debts, and an aging population also pose a heavy threat to the South Korean economy this year.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy was in a deep slump last year due to weak demand at home and abroad, especially hit hard by an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, throwing a cold blanket over recovering domestic consumption.
Its exports, the country’s key economic driver, fell in December for the 12th month in a row, with its annual figure plunging 7.9 percent on-year to reach US$527 billion.
Major global investment banks, including Citi Group and Morgan Stanley, forecast that South Korea will expand an average 2.9 percent in 2016, while the finance ministry expects a 3.3 percent growth.’
Choi, who will be replaced by finance minister designate Yoo Il-ho later this month, called for remaining cool-headed and making headway by implementing immediate structural reforms.
“It is the right time to carry out structural reforms,” he said, referring to controversial restructuring-related bills that have been shelved in line with the current political situation.
“It’s urgent to achieve 3 percent growth in order to make people feel the economic vitality,” the outgoing minister said. “The government will employ expansive macroeconomic policies and a deregulation drive to reinvigorate investment and private consumption.”
The Korea-China free trade deal will play a big role in reviving sluggish exports, he added.