The Moon Jae-in administration launched the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Wednesday, expecting it to draw up a blueprint for “innovation-led” growth, and find new industries that will boost the economy in the future.
In its inaugural ceremony, President Moon made clear his intention to push for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and called for the commission to come up with detailed plans and to implement them swiftly. He then pledged to introduce a “regulatory sandbox” for new industries so that businesses can freely test innovative ideas, products and services without the fetters of government regulations.
It was good to see the President keep his campaign promise to build a “people-centered” economy on three pillars — income-led growth, fair competition and innovation-oriented advances. Industry lobbies and some media had criticized the incumbent administration’s economic policy for focusing too much on redistribution while ignoring expanding the pie first.
Equally commendable was Moon’s resolve to eliminate administrative red tape, given that most of his predecessors’ ambitious economic programs went nowhere amid bureaucrats’ excessive intervention. This notwithstanding, many economists remain uncertain what the Fourth Industrial Revolution exactly means, and whether the world, let alone this country, has entered it.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of World Economic Forum who first raised the issue at the Davos Forum in January last year, defined it as the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the 20th century. It is the fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
We are less concerned about academic arguments than about whether and how the nation and its industries will adapt themselves to the new trend.
From past experience, we know what will drive it to another failure.
If bureaucrats try — again — to take the lead and concentrate resources on big businesses, the plan is sure to fail. Officials should present minimal guidance and let the private sector, especially startups and small ventures, use their creative imagination to the full.