In 2023, there are still unresolved issues from the past on the horizon – mainly the armed conflict across our eastern border and its economic consequences. Additionally, the situation is complicated by the election calendar. In your opinion, what themes from the area of socio-economic policy will dominate the narrative and define the boundary line of political controversy?
Perhaps the dominant issue is the effects of inflation, which is perceived by the majority of society as high prices and the loss of value of accumulated savings. PiS escapes responsibility by talking about the consequences of Russian aggression. And he will lighten the mood with social transfers, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the sentiments of people who watch price changes on a daily basis. The war in Ukraine will be an opportunity to present the ruling party as the only credible guarantor of Poland’s security.
One of the main debates seems to revolve around whether or not to change the retirement age. It turns out that almost half of the Poles are in favor of reducing it further (study for Radio Jet). Looking at demographics and mathematics, it means that we consciously agree to starvation pensions or … we do not fully trust the ZUS system and look elsewhere for the guarantee of a “golden autumn”. How do you think we can avoid the bankruptcy of the current Social Security system?
There is one more possible explanation. A large section of the population is not aware of state finances. People don’t know where the government gets its money from, how much it has and what it has to spend. They are like a kid in a joke when asked where dad got the money, “from the wall”, i.e. from the ATM. Financial and economic illiteracy is very common. Its effects can also be seen in the media. Political populism results in a life overburdened with debt. So yes Many people think that pensions are provided by the government and that the government can freely shape their amount Then irrespective of the working hours and type of the retiree. The meaning of retirement age, of course, returns in these circumstances. PiS wants to repeat the campaign from 2015, with the opposition abandoning its aim to raise the pension age again.
There are two real ways. First, perfect, long working hours. This sounds bad, especially since the average life expectancy of Poles has decreased drastically, but the arithmetic is subject to such arguments. The second, possible but worse, is to reduce the amount of guarantees under the pension system. In fact, it is possible to abandon setting a retirement age altogether. Let everyone retire when they want, but only in proportion to accumulated contributions. The number of real poor in the country will increase. I fear that no party will have the guts to speak honestly about this before the elections. Let’s remember that in Greece this led to several reductions in the value of pensions.
Another topic, and unfortunately an alternative, but attractive one for the ruling camp, is the debate on whether or not to join the Eurozone. Surveys show that two-thirds of Poles are afraid to give up Zloty. The question is, do they see all the consequences of having an economic anchor with the central bank in Frankfurt? Adoption of the euro is not the only thing The cappuccino effect And rounding some prices.
People don’t understand that. Of course, most of them are not entrepreneurs who feel the effects of the instability of their own currency. There has never been an honest debate on the matter in Poland. The government of which I was prime minister made a plan to enter monetary union by 2006. We were overconfident. Today, on the one hand, we are still obliged to adopt the euro in the Accession Agreement, and on the other hand, the current financial and economic situation in Poland means that We do not meet the criteria to join the Eurozone.
I have been following the discussions in Croatia closely. Unions threatened higher prices as the central bank and government pointed to economic benefits. At the moment, the price of the little black dress is rising. In addition to the economic benefits, adopting the euro means joining a group that increasingly determines the policy of the entire EU. We should not limit ourselves to marginal positions.
Speaking of European issues, how do you realistically assess the prospects for opening KPO funds? In Brussels, Poland not only promised to restore the rule of law, amend the law at the Supreme Court, and dissolve the neo-KRS. With around 300 milestones, for example, the dispute over wind farms and the so-called far-reaching legislation, it is easy to predict that it will be very difficult to implement many of our obligations.
In theory, meeting the conditions accepted by the Polish government is not that difficult. Assuming that Prime Minister Morawiecki was thinking when he agreed, he must have had some idea about fulfilling the pledges. In practice, it turns out in many cases The interests or ignorance of influential small groups in the ruling camp is paralyzing. PiS needs both money and an opportunity to declare victory. Commission is very difficult because the price of trust is very high in hard times. The closer the election gets, the more difficult it will be for PiS to achieve anything in the country and in Brussels.
The Polish economy has not escaped the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are no free lunches. The bailout took place at the cost of a massive debt crisis, a loosening of control elements and even guarantees of legal impunity for officials. This may be an impossible task, as only politicians have the tools to reform public finances and tighten control mechanisms. Is the government and its administration out of control?
In 2001, when the Left won the elections, we faced a somewhat similar situation. It was easy, but it also required decisions that people didn’t like. We knew the political price in advance. Now it will be very difficult. Unexpectedly Real, i.e. open and hidden, public debt is very high. If reasonably calculated, it would exceed the constitutional limit. Added to this is a corrupt and poorly controlled administration, a judiciary in need of thorough reform, a professional foreign service, etc. To be honest, I don’t want to be in the shoes of the new government, which I hope is formed by the current opposition.
Finally, I would like to refer to your experience as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. If there is a post-election change in the leadership of power, do you see a real opportunity to solve the many corruptions and irregularities in the economic policy, referring only to symbolic failures like the power plant in Astrolaka or the purchase of respirators. From an arms dealer?
It is possible, first you need to “dePiSic” the prosecutor’s office and the police. This is also necessary to prevent Poland from slipping into the role of a banana republic. It is a question of principles, but also of prevention for the future.
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