TCS Daily

Poland's Promised Land?

By Kamila Pajer - September 29, 2005 12:00 AM

The results of the Sunday parliamentary elections in Poland were a bit of a surprise and caused some consternation even among the winners. The Law and Justice (PiS) party, which received nearly 30 percent of the votes, was unable for two days to announce who would be the prime minister of the new government. The trouble was caused by the fact that the natural candidate for the post, the leader of the winning party, is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose twin brother Lech Kaczynski is running in the presidential elections to be held in two weeks' time. And Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised to not to be prime minister should his brother win the presidency.

Now we learn that a relatively unknown PiS member, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, will be the PM. He announced that the first action the new government should undertake is to establish a public program for feeding poor children. The PiS is ready to spend some $130 to 330 million in public money on the program. The party proposes then to lower the income tax rate - also for the parents of those poor children - from the present 19 percent to... 18 percent. Obviously, taxes cannot be made too low as the state has to collect enough money to organize various help programs for those who after paying taxes cannot provide for their families themselves.

The result has been portrayed in the media as a dramatic shift to the right for Poland. But the PiS party platform indicates otherwise. In an interview with Business Week Polska, the candidate said he thinks that supermarkets should be forbidden to open on Sundays, that the state should establish maximum prices for drugs and books and that the state should finance higher education. As for the healthcare system, Marcinkiewicz admits, however, that patients should be free to choose their insurer - to decide whether they prefer to be insured by a public or private institution. Still, the PiS party program calls for a centrally managed public healthcare system with compulsory public insurance.

The PiS program is rather pro-social, meaning apart from public relief programs such as the one mentioned above, state guaranties of credits for houses and flats also many other socialist solutions: state control over the economy, slower privatization of public firms and state financed science and research. The party promises honesty and justice in public life. To fight rapidly spreading corruption, which is a direct result of the vast public administration and its power over the law, the party proposes to... enlarge the administration (the department of internal control). Clearly, the PiS believes the fact that in Poland clerks and politicians are corrupt; the fact that some 20 percent of people are unemployed and many live in poverty does not tell them the system is ineffective and devastating for the country, but rather that the system only needs some adjusting.

According to the PiS its program would lead to a "New Social Deal" to "Make all Poles profit from economic growth and not only the very limited number of the richest people". Yet, the party does not want to achieve this by making people more free but by controlling them more. The problem is also that the PiS program is just a collection of wishes and promises with the biggest promise of them all that PiS politicians are honest and can guarantee the money they take people is safe and will not be squandered.

Only some 40 percent of Poles participated in the parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, the vast majority of those who voted share the PiS vision of the central role of the state in the country's economy. Apart from PiS, they chose: the presently ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), which received 11 percent of the votes; the pro-social Self-Defense (Samoobrona), also 11 percent; the socio-national League of Polish Families (LPR), with 8 percent and the pro-social Polish Peasants' Party (PSL), 7 percent. Thus, together the statism supporters make up over 70 percent of the Polish parliament. Some 24 percent of votes went to the Civic Platform (PO), the party that is likely to enter into coalition with the PiS, even though the PO proposes a quite different economic program of more freedom for businessmen, lower taxes and a simpler tax system.

The results of the parliamentary election in Poland prove Poles are not ready yet to change the system, not ready to understand that Socialism cannot be rid of its distortions. Poles are thus not ready to be free from the state, from politicians or from various "experts".

The Jews who were freed from Egyptian slavery wandered for 40 years in the desert before arriving in the Promised Land. Poles have been wandering the desert of Socialism for 15 years now.


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