Meanwhile in Cuckooland 71

Polish finances are quite a mysterious topic. PiS claims, that our economy is going better than ever before. Opposition believes that they are a disaster. Economic experts warn, that while at the moment are doing well, we are living on borrowed money, that would have to be paid back one day. Mateusz Morawiecki, responsible for finances, himself sends mixed messages. Sometimes everything is perfect, sometimes we will face record high debt…

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Perhaps if we cannot rely on words, actions would speak? But there is a lack of cohesion here as well. Protesting parents and carers of disabled persons had to give up their occupation protest in parliament building after 40 days – PiS was not willing to listen, they were threatened and mobbed more and more by the parliamentary guards, pro-government media unwound a smear campaign against them, and due to NATO summit, the part of the building they were holding their protest was literally cut off and masked with curtains, so nobody could see them. They did not achieved their goals – some PiS politicians say that it is because they could not be trusted with money, but the general message is that there is no money for that in the budget.

In the same time, Polish government is going to provide financial support for the U.S. Army. No, this is not a mistake. Poland just offered up to $2 billions to the USA for strengthening it’s presence in our country. This is about one and a half times as it would cost to meet demands of those protesters. So I guess it is just about setting one’s priorities right.

Polish entrepreneurs are not happy with the choice of priorities made by prime minister Morawiecki. As he is a former banker, many hoped that he will help to improve conditions for business in here. And so he does, except, that he caters for foreign investors at the expense of Polish companies. For many years the investors were ruled to Poland by Special Economical Zones – local governments were providing infrastructure and the foreign companies that decided to locate their businesses there were given a significant tax relief. It was not making starting a new company in Poland any easier, as apart from having to compete with worldwide corporations, there was no hope for level playing ground for everyone. Imagine, you were building a company, developing the product, investing in production facilities while having to pay all taxes and then, suddenly, a big company moves to the industrial estate next doors, having their product developed somewhere across the world and builds what is basically a cheap manufacturing plant benefiting from the cheap Polish labour. And they don’t have to pay any taxes for next 15 years. Existence of Special Economical Zones in Poland was questioned by the European Union, as it was considered to be a form of illegal public support. Upon our accession to the EU there was an agreement that no new SEZ would be created in Poland and they were about to be extinguished with time, but our nation is very resourceful and found ways to create new ones: for example by excluding the surface of roadways, pavements and lawns from existing zones, one could save some acreage that then can be used to include another enterprise into the zone while the total acreage would remain unchanged. But that is not enough, so for years Polish government was investigating how to extend existence of those zones beyond 2020 and still remain within the bounds of EU legislation. And then came PiS, who doesn’t give a damn about such petty details.

And so, as per the new law that just have been passed by the parliament, Poland as a whole is to become one big Special Economical Zone. Now new investors can hope to get 10 to 15 years of tax relief no matter where they are about to invest. Meanwhile perks for investors who conduct businesses in existing SEZ will be extended up to 2026.

But of course special economical treatment is not the only advantage of doing business in Poland. Relaxed approach to environmental regulations also opens many opportunities. During recent days, a wave of huge fires rolled through Poland. Strangely, most fires were taking place in the “recycling plants”, which happened to be mostly dumps where things like old tires, domestic appliances, non-recyclable plastic and so on have been stored in big mounds. This, for example, is aerial footage of the fire in old tire dump in Trzebinia that had to be battled by 200 firemen:

So what is the business model here?

You open a company in Poland. You call it “Cutting Edge Eco Recycling” and accept refuse from Western European countries. You can get as much as 50 euro for a ton of rubbish that is hard to recycle, or non-recyclable at all. For a few pennies, you hire some abandoned yard and dump it there, then either disappear, leaving the ground owner with the problem, or some unknown perpetrators set fire to your materials. For example in Zgierz there was approximately 50 000 tons of refuse awaiting utilisation, and suddenly it went up with smoke, so the lucky owners of the company saved approx. 11 000 000 zł that it would cost to dispose of it safely. And the other costs? Who cares? Fire brigades are paid by taxpayer, and who cares about air pollution in the neighbourhood if one of such stunts is enough to make enough money to spend the rest of one’s life in some tropical island? One can blame the government for creating recycling laws that are full of loopholes, and environmental services for being unable to control the industry sufficiently. But the government is no better when it comes to respecting environment.

Poland has very little use of our inland waterways and PiS promises to change it, picturing Poland as second Netherlands. Experts are doubtful, as our biggest rivers run from south to north, and most of the transport is conduced along the east-west axle. Odra, after being neglected for many years is navigable only from Silesia to Opole and in it’s lower course near Szczecin – other parts of the river are floatable at best for 3 months of the year. If the dam in Malczyce was completed, and significant money were invested in dredging and reconstruction of other infrastructure, it could provide a waterway connecting ports in Szczecin and Świnoujście with places as much up the river as Bohumin etc… Wisła, on the other hand, as one of the few rivers in Europe was never regulated, and in result it become a haven for rare wildlife. Birdwatchers from all over Europe come to European Natura 2000 site “Lower Vistula” to observe protected species such as ringed plower or common tern nesting in the shoals and sandbanks there. But if they want to watch the chicks to hatch, they might have to wait a year now, as most of the nests were flushed after the institution ironically called Regional Management Office for Protection of Environment decided to dump water from Włocławek dam. The dump was needed to raise water levels by 90 cm, so the element of a ship built in Płock shipyard could be transported on the barge.

It’s good, that the government supports industry, but if it has to be at so great expense to environment, then I would rather see them continuing manufacturing rosaries (this is not a joke, a state controlled company as a part of a deal with father Rydzyk’s media had to manufacture 200 000 rosaries). Or perhaps at least they could listen to experts – the water drop was carried out despite fierce opposition from environmental organizations.

But as the things stand now, perhaps it would be better for those environmentalists to shut up, otherwise the government might want to go after them. The opposition movement Obywatele RP, that forced Kaczyński to give up on his monthly celebrations of Smoleńsk crash, has been accused of anti-state activities and tries to take the organization under receivership, which would de facto mean that the Ministry of Interior affairs would take over control on Obywatele RP’s finances. But even non-attached citizens cannot feel safe if they question PiS. For some time now, PiS politicians tour Poland and meet with the voters. To ensure that only right questions can be asked, they take only questions in writing. When one of the voters in Sanok stood up during the meeting and tried to ask speaker of the parliament about the recent protest of disabled, she was first booed by PiS followers, and then, after the meeting has ended, she was stopped for ID check by the police. When asked for a reason, she was informed that she is suspected of “disturbing public order” or “indecent behaviour”.

Those silly anti-PiS people, they don’t know how to behave correctly. The citizen should know his place, and in order to avoid indecency, praise PiS. Even for things that PiS haven’t done, like the vogt of Węgierska Górka, who in January thanked PiS for the new bypass of his village, despite the fact, that after 2 years of PiS government nothing was going on on that front. As per mid May, even the tender for construction works hasn’t been resolved.

But who knows, maybe he was misinformed? He wouldn’t be the highest ranked official to be fooled recently. An online portal for energy industry carried a journalistic provocation: they have created a false account for non-existent energy expert. They had a cheek to call him Piotr Niewiechowicz (nie wie – doesn’t know in Polish). Within weeks the virtual expert was not only quoted and followed by many, but also managed to publish an article full of rubbish in the leading business magazine, received an offer to become energy expert for a major opposition party and, what is most appealing, has been given sensitive information about matters related to Baltic pipelines – which is a strategic matter for Poland, trying to break from its energy dependency on Russian company Gazprom. Insider’s knowledge have been shared by high ranking government employee, and it was him, who approached fake expert on Twitter… The government is trying to put a bold face, but they cannot really evade the question: if two journalists with barely any resources and time could gain so much influence in just few weeks, what the Russian intelligence is able to do?

And only Janusz Korwin-Mikke is having a good time. He seems to be completely unruffled by the fact, that the only news about his political party recently was the scandal in which one of it activists has been accused of maliciously infect female members of the party with syphilis: after all, his party is called “Wolność” – Freedom – and therefore nobody should expect him of any intervention in the matter: “It is a private matter of party members. One lady has been trying to bring it to my attention, but I ignored her”. He will refrain from any action until the court rules on the matters.

Meanwhile, he went to Pyrkon, biggest Polish fandom convention. Some laugh, but if you ask me, this is just a perfect place for him. With his backwards social views (he is a known opponent of gay and women’s rights), his conviction that European Union is a leftist conspiracy aiming to destroy European civilisation and hardcore belief, that invisible hand of the free market is a panacea for all problems of the humanity, the gathering of people obsessed with obscure science fiction, fantasy and other stories from alternative universes is exactly where he belongs. And even his ridiculous bow tie no longer seems out of place in the environment, when a man wearing a helmet made of an old CRT TV does not even provoke a second glance…

Picture: Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom (Public Domain)
This piece was written for Britske Listy



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