South Korean President Moon sacks economic policy chiefs

The high-profile appointments came amid criticism that Moon Jae-In’s signature policies such as big minimum wage increases and a shorter work week had backfired. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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South Korean President Moon sacks economic policy chiefs

  • Moon Jae-In has replaced chief presidential policy aide Jang Ha-sung and finance minister Kim Dong-yeon
  • The move widely seen as intended to reinforce his controversial policies

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in has fired both his top economic policymakers and replaced them with people already in the government, his office said on Friday, a move widely seen as intended to reinforce his controversial policies.
Moon has replaced chief presidential policy aide Jang Ha-sung and finance minister Kim Dong-yeon, the two most senior policymakers in charge of running Asia’s fourth-largest economy, the presidential office announced.
It was a bigger reshuffle than expected, but the appointment of their successors from within the government indicated President Moon would reinforce his economic policies, which economists have said were hurting growth.
Presidential social policy aide Kim Soo-hyun will succeed Jang and veteran bureaucrat Hong Nam-ki, currently head of the government policy co-ordination office, will be the new finance minister, the presidential office said.
The incoming chief presidential policy aide has been behind harsh regulatory measures aimed at curbing housing prices, which many analysts have said were against market principles.
The incoming finance minister has served at various government departments such as the finance ministry and the presidential office. He is still required to appear at a parliamentary verification hearing although approval there is not mandatory.
The high-profile appointments came amid criticism that Moon’s signature policies such as big minimum wage increases and a shorter work week had backfired, with lower income earners — the intended beneficiaries — feeling the most pain as employers cut back hiring.
South Korea’s minimum wages are set to be raised by nearly 30 percent over two years and the work week has been cut by almost a quarter for big companies, but initial outcomes have been a plunge in employment rates and lower incomes.
The outgoing finance minister, who has served since June last year as Moon’s first top economic policy planner, has repeatedly clashed with Jang by calling for some adjustment of the president’s ‘income-led growth’ strategy.
The economy saw growth in the July-September quarter holding steady from the previous quarter at 0.6 percent, but missing the market expectations as construction spending plunged by the most in two decades.
Private consumption held up on increased welfare support but a sharp cut in infrastructure spending and strong controls on property transactions clouded the outlook at a time when the global demand for South Korea’s exports is cooling.


Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

  • The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation

ISLAMABAD: Legal challenges for one of Pakistan’s most influential political families, comprising ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his political heir and daughter Maryam Nawaz, and younger brother Shehbaz Sharif — former chief minister of Pakistan’s powerful Punjab province — seem to be brewing with new allegations of corruption and misuse of authority surfacing against them.

The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation.

“They misused the taxpayers’ money and authority while in power,” Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, alleged during a press briefing on Saturday.

Fresh cases

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family and the first to be referred to the NAB and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by the incumbent government.

Detailing the misuse of public resources by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam, special assistant to the PM on media Iftikhar Durrani alleged that they both enjoyed unauthorized use of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s aircraft, besides squandering public funds on the erection of a security fence around their palatial residence in Lahore, and misuse of authority while in office.

Government officials also revealed during the press briefing that a new high-end property portfolio in Frederick Close, central London, worth around £2.3 million ($2.95 million) recently came to the fore, reportedly owned by Sharif’s late wife. 

The documents about its ownership and rental income between 2012 and 2016 had been available, “but were buried in the files,” said Akbar. 

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, veteran leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, however, said that the cases against the Sharif family were “politically motivated” and the prosecutors had failed to present concrete evidence of corruption against Sharif in the accountability court.

“The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) government thinks it can politically damage the Sharif family by leveling false allegations of corruption and misuse of authority against them, but this is not going to work,” he told Arab News.

Pakistan’s law required Nawaz Sharif, being a member of the National Assembly and holder of the country’s top public office, to declare his dependents’ assets, including his wife’s, in the official documents, which he did not.

 The undeclared central London property held in the name of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz will now be probed by both the NAB and the FBR.

 “We are handing over all documentary evidence to these institutions for investigation,” said Durrani. 

 The corruption cases that the Sharif family has faced until now were either filed during their own tenure in power in 2013-18, or during the previous governments of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and General Pervez Musharraf.

Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab Province, is currently in the NAB’s custody, facing at least two cases of corruption pertaining to his tenure in the office.

 In July this year, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were handed jail terms of 11 years, six years and one year respectively, in a corruption reference pertaining to their undeclared offshore companies and properties in London.

 The trio is currently on bail while the verdict in two more corruption references against Nawaz Sharif is expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

Political analysts believe that the Sharif family will still have a long way to go to prove their innocence in the courts and return to the political arena. 

“Any imminent return of the Sharif family in national politics does not seem possible in the given situation,” Professor Tahir Malik, academic and analyst, told Arab News.

Sharif has yet to defend his position in two corruption references currently undergoing hearing against him involving Al-Azizia Steel Mill in Saudi Arabia and monetary transactions made through Flagship Investment Limited, both of which he denies any connection to.