|Mr Tusk was under pressure to deliver a strong performance|
Courtesy of KPRM
Prime Minister Donald Tusk won a vote of confidence in parliament last Friday after announcing a public investment program estimated at roughly zł.200 billion, as well as policies for combating Poland’s demographic problems.
The speech followed a spate of recent polls showing Mr Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) party trailing opposition Law and Justice (PiS) by anything from 2 to 6 percentage points. The vote of confidence was initiated by the prime minister himself.
In a much-awaited policy speech, Prime Minister Tusk told parliament that one of the key responsibilities of his government will be to keep Poland’s economy growing and keep Poles in work “at all costs.”
He announced the creation of a special investment vehicle called “Polish Investments,” which will have zł.40 billion in funds to be managed by the state-owned Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK).
Mr Tusk said the program will be financed without “increasing public debt” but by exploiting the “frozen assets of state-owned firms.”
BGK will receive ownership of shares in state-controlled firms and subsequently make loans totaling some zł.40 billion for investments in Poland, according to Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski. This operation will be carried out between now and 2015.
The PM also said his government would announce tenders valued at zł.73 billion during the years 2013 to 2015 in order to continue recent investments in highways and modernize the country’s antiquated railway system.
Meanwhile, by 2020, zł.60 billion will have been spent on energy-sector investments, such as the building of gas terminals. The government also expects zł.55 billion to be spent on shale gas investments, although zł.5 billion will come from Polish firms while the rest will be from foreign firms. Also, zł.10 billion will be spent on modernizing the Polish army in 2013 and 2014. In addition, zł.1 billion will be spent on modernizing the Polish police force.
Poland has a demographic problem, with the average fertility rate at 1.3 children per woman. In addition, Poland’s population is expected to shrink by 1 percent in the next decade, and is aging.
If Poles don’t start to have more children, there will be too few people to work for those on pensions.
Mr Tusk said his government will embark on a “revolution” in social policies aimed at solving this problem.
An announcement that will surely get Poles’ attention is that the maximum maternity leave will now be extended from 6 months to 12 months.
There will be two options available to mothers. If a mother chooses the six-month option, then she will receive 100 percent of her salary for the whole period. If she picks the one-year offer, then she will receive 80 percent of her salary for the whole period.
There will also be some zł.370 million set aside for building preschools and kindergartens.
Innovation and others
A lot has been made of the fact that Poland needs to transform into a knowledge-based economy in order to continue developing. The state currently spends just 0.6 percent of GDP on R&D, much less than most other EU countries. The PM addressed this, saying “we will invest zł.10 billion in the next three years on laboratories and building fast information networks in order to make Poland more innovative.”
Responding to the opposition’s oft-repeated criticism that he has failed to provide a “vision” for Poland’s future, Mr Tusk said, “I am not and will not be a specialist on big romantic visions. My vision is made up of small, everyday dreams.” He said he would try to “win back the trust and confidence of Poles,” likely referring to his party’s weakening popularity.
President Bronisław Ko-morowski, a political ally of the prime minister, said the speech was very “technocratic” but that this was a “good thing.”
President Komorowski spoke with approval about the PM’s announcements regarding policies for young parents.
Meanwhile, Mariusz Bła-szczak, Law and Justice’s parliamentary caucus leader, lambasted Mr Tusk’s speech, saying it lacked specifics.
“Donald Tusk has no credibility,” he said.
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