Thursday, January 17, 2008

The anonymous Polish government


Wives of striking miners in Silesia in the southwest, trooped up to Warsaw for a meeting with vice-pm and economy minister, Waldemar Pawlak, yesterday. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at his office. He was in Lublin at the time, down in the southeast. To me that sums up the new Donald Tusk led government: it’s invisible.

Pawlak, when tracked down by journalists for a comment about the strike which has been going on since mid-December (on parity issues with workers in another mine, to which they will be amalgamated) said that, “There is nothing the government can do on this issue. This is an issue for the colliery management.” Oh, and: ‘Strikers should not use their wives to fight their battles for them..,” or words to that effect.

‘The government can do nothing’, should be the slogan for this new government, which swept the hyperactive (on corruption and paranoia issues) Kaczynski government from power on October 21. Since Donald Tusk took over, his government hasn’t really done a lot.

I remember when New Labour entered No. 10 Downing Street, London after 18 years of Tory government. In the first couple of days finance minister Gordon Brown had handed over the power to set interest rates to the Bank of England (a move that shocked everyone – probably even Tony Blair). After a week, policy statements had flown out of the windows of ministries, fax machines and emails from that new internet thingy by the truck load.

Not all, or even any, of these policies were any good – but that is not the point. The New Labour government hit the ground running.

But Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform/Peasant’s Party coalition can't be said to have hit the ground running. Running? They are not even moving. Ground? They have not made it down to the ground, yet. They resemble a doped up kuala bear, sitting in its tree, staring into space.

It’s hard summing up their first few months in power, because they haven’t really done anything. They give the impression of not being ready to take power. Perhaps they are as surprised as the rest of us that they are there at all.

The policy statements they have made – like the one on reforming the funding of public media – are vague, not thought through, and confusing.

Meanwhile, as they dither, trouble looms on many fronts. The miners are restless; the health service workers are restless; the teachers will be protesting outside the education ministry tomorrow.

And the promise of an ‘economic miracle like the Irish had’, looks like a silly promise by Mr Tusk. The Warsaw Stock Exchange has lost record amounts of value this week and last, on fears of a recession in the US and a general world slowdown. Poland would only experience an ‘Irish miracle’ with high economic growth – higher, in fact, than the Law and Justice government were luckily enough to have had happen when they were ruling (a complete coincidence, probably, as they were not the most active government economically). They also need to make tough, and possibly very unpopular reforms to the economy - and that means coming down from the eucalyptus tree, and actually doing something!

Civic Platform define themselves as being economically free market orientated. They are the Laissez-faire party. But non intervention of the state in the economy is one thing; a non interventionist government in anything – nothing - at all is simply not a government.

So time to get your finger out, Donald. Do something!

30 comments:

jannowak57 said...

Why does the government need to get involved with the miners? A strike is between the union and a company. If the labour laws are being observed, the government does not need to play a part.

If the government needs to get involved it should deal with the illegal occupation of private property.

You either want free enterprise or you don’t.

beatroot said...

Are you telling me that the government is not in any position to do anything at all about that strike? Come on...

Anonymous said...

I just looked at an article on the Polish Radio – external service titled “Miners' strike goes on”, it contains the word “drasticity”. I have been unable to find it in any such word in the dictionary. Is spelling and translation a problem with this organization? Presumably it’s mandate is to present Poland to the world in a positive light not make Poles look stupid and incompetent. Tell them to buy a spell checker or use the one they already have.

This isn’t the first time, there’s a pattern of sloppy editing.

michael farris said...

The key to getting elected in Poland is to suggest that things (that is, people, by which I mean _other_ people) have got to change.

They key to popularity while in office is to do ... very little.

And miners are only popular with the general public when getting killed in tragic accidents. Otherwise, the general opinion (as I perceive it) is that too many governments have already made too many concessions. And this case really does seem like it's none of the government's business. The protest has interested the media far more than the general public.

I would rate the government's performance on healthcare issues more harshly. The minister of health is mightily unimpressive and nobody wants to bell the cat (admit the nasty truth that public healthcare makes up far too small a part of the budget and improving it involves spending more public money on it).

But generally, it's often better to follow the advice: Don't just do something, sit there!
Speaking of which, I don't know if I would use Nu-Labor as an example of anything besides how to rip apart the fabric of society in as short a time as possible. Their 'accomplishments' almost make me believe the theory that they're all undercover Gramscians who are out to destroy British society completely.

michael farris said...

"it contains the word “drasticity”. I have been unable to find it in any such word in the dictionary"

It seems perfectly cromulent to me.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

Anon - so why don't you write them and tell then? The address on the web site says

english.section@polskieradio.pl

Mike
And miners are only popular with the general public when getting killed in tragic accidents.

Sad, but true.

But generally, it's often better to follow the advice: Don't just do something, sit there!

Is that how mindless with low horizons politics has become? Don;t do anything? You know, I remember when folks were a bit more embitious than that. Young man

jannowak57 said...

Beatroot please explain why the government should get involved in the miners strike or are you suggesting they should get involved in all labour disputes. If labour laws are not being broken what is the justification?

Unless the strike affects public safety, national security or can severely damage the economy then there is not cause to intervene.

I notice you haven’t council intervention to deal with illegal actions of the miners union.

Michael farris said: “that public healthcare makes up far too small a part of the budget and improving it involves spending more public money”

No it doesn’t, you have the health care you can afford, if you want healthcare like in Germany, the UK or France then you need the same per capita GDP. Everyone wants to drive a nice car not everyone can afford it. Having said this, the healthcare in Poland can be better administered.

beatroot said...

Health system? Cuba has low GDP growth but not bad health system.

beatroot said...

And Jan, I think the government is going to have to decide how it is going to deal with the unions. They are going to have a lot of problems. So I suppose they are trying to set out how they going to deal with all this.

But the miners thing was just a hook to hang the general do nothingness.

jannowak57 said...

If you want a reasonable discussion on healthcare in the developed world you refrain from using ridiculous examples such as Cuba. Cuba’s healthcare system is nearly identical to the system that was used in the PRL and proved to be equally as poor.

It is a system no one in Europe would accept!

Here are some characteristics of Cuba’s system:
· Low pay of doctors
· Poor facilities—buildings in poor state of repair and mostly outdated.
· Poor provision of equipment.
· Frequent absence of essential drugs.
· Concern regarding freedom of choice both for patient and doctor.

Cuban doctors represent the highest rate of defections from Cuba due to being paid around 15 to 20 USD per month not to mention unethical medical practices they are obliged to participate in. To be specific the incarceration of AIDS patience in so-called medical concentration camps. The use of psychiatric and medical doctors in the interrogation and torture of political prisoners. The requirement for prison doctors to withhold medical treatment from political prisoners, the most common prison abuse.

Some western journalists found the following based interviews of Cubans, finds that in reality even the most common pharmaceutical items, such as Aspirin and antibiotics are conspicuously absent or only available on the black market. Surgeons lack basic supplies and must re-use latex gloves. Patients must buy their own sutures on the black market and provide bed sheets and food for extended hospital stays.

Cuban doctors demand payment for speedy and effective services otherwise you wait in the public line up. Payment in dollars or gifts is customary to navigate the system…..sound familiar.

Special facilities exist for the communist hierarchy also cover the military and security apparatus as of course some are more equal than others.

Having been in Cuba on holiday and getting a chance to see a country/village clinic, it defined third world medical standards; it’s a great system so long as you don’t get sick.

jannowak57 said...

Second request to address my question.

Beatroot please explain why the government should get involved in the miners strike or are you suggesting they should get involved in all labour disputes. If labour laws are not being broken what is the justification?

Renegade Eye said...

The backward policy towards HIV ended in Cuba in 1993. See this. Cuba is the only country that will perform a sex change operation free.

Government allowing a strike to occur, causing that much hardship, is taking a position.

jannowak57 said...

Renegade Eye said... “Cuba is the only country that will perform a sex change operation free.”

If only this was the most requested medical procedure in Cuba then I would be tempted to say they have had a measure of success. Hopefully the state is providing a sex change as an optional procedure.

Comrade, I don’t need an ice pick in the side of the head in order to see your last comment as the weakest defence of Fidel’s medical system I’ve every come across. I guess even the anti-Stalinist left can’t defend the un-defendable. By the way we have to give Stalin some credit as he did eliminate a large number of Polish communists during the period of 1930 to 1950.

Please correct me if I’m wrong but had Trotsky prevailed over Stalin wouldn’t it have just amounted to a change of colour scheme at the Lubyanka.

If you have some extra cash in the piggy bank then one of the most notorious murder weapons in modern history, the ice pick that killed Leon Trotsky, appears to have been found, 65 years after it was apparently stolen from the Mexican police.
The daughter of a former secret service agent claims she has the steel mountaineering instrument, which is stained with the blood of the Russian revolutionary. It’s for sale (no handle but complete with blood stain).

Renegade Eye said... “Government allowing a strike to occur, causing that much hardship, is taking a position.”

The workers have a right to collective bargaining and a right to strike. The company and labour union are capable of solving the dispute without the government interfering. This procedure seems to work well enough. Labour laws maintain a balance of power between the two camps.

Surely the idea of a state controlled economy has sufficiently been discredited that it does need to be debated.

I’ll make you a bet that after Castro dies or is incapacitated to a point of total irrelevance Cuba will start to follow the Chinese model of capitalism. This being the idea where you are free to make money but not to have civil rights, as we understand them in the west. This is based on the population remaining docile and accepting of this.

beatroot said...

Jan
Hale you seen ‘Sicko’ by Michael Moore? OK, it is a propaganda film, but it does have some interesting stuff about the appalling US health system. And comparing GDP, he shows that Cuba has done relatively well with its system.

As far as governments getting involved in strikes. If a government thinks that the industry and a strategic one then it has every right, and duty to get involved. If a government thinks that it can play a role in mediation between the two sides then it has every right to get involved. In this case, At the moment, the government is trying to send out signals to the unions on how it is going to play all the disputes that are coming its way. I think snubbing wives of striking miners was not the right signal.

beakerkin said...

Beatroot

Jannowak is 100% correct about this.
Why should government get involved with a strike between a private employer and a union. If the parties agree to mediation that is another story.

You have clearly gone off the deep end with the comments about Cuba's medical care. Then you wonder why people call you a fellow traveler.


Cuba is a repressive totalitarian government and despite your claims its health care system, housing are all among the worst in the Third world. You clearly live in a fantasy world if you think people risk their lives to get away from obnoxious tyranny. Such a great system has provided the average Cuban with a diet that is similar to what the slaves used eat.

The Thereisenstadt tours arranged by the Salon types are not a genuine reflection of Cuban life. The only contact many of these salon lefties have with ordinary Cubans is with the scores of Cheap hookers. Cuba is a destination of frequent European sex tours.

Cuba's health care is not represented by the familiar images.
The party elite and cash paying medical tourists have a far better level of care than the average Cuban whose care is on a par with other Third World countries.

Does your nostalgia for repressive
Communist governments go outside Latin America. Do you wax nostalgically about Zimbabwe, Syria
or North Korea or is it just okay in Latin America.

Trotsky is a war criminal who should have been tried for his crimes against humanity. The reality is that the crimes of Lenin , Trotsky and Stalin are on a par with those of the Nazis.

beatroot said...

What has Trotsky got to do with the Polish government? Try and sray on topic, there's a good lad.

Anonymous said...

An all-out strike in the mines would mean a very cold winter for all - possibly even people who believe in laissez faire economics.

The government stalled on this last month because from Jan 1st 2008 it is, technically, a matter between the management and the workers: let them take the blame for hypothermia deaths among the old.

This is PO's attitude to problems: deny responsibility (okay - laissez faire if you prefer). The government has frequently said that pay disputes in the health service are between the strikers and the hospital management. By some trick of arm's-length accountancy, workers in what we call the public health service are not employed by the state. (Similarly, Microsoft employs about a dozen people.)

It is not quite true that Poland cannot have, e.g., German-standard health care because its GDP is lower. Its costs (salaries, building maintenance) are correspondingly lower too. There's plenty of money in the country but it's not being wasted on the sick.

jannowak57 said...

Unfortunately Micheal Moore is more a propagandist and less a documentary maker. It seems you cannot get rational debate to take place in the US on the issue of health care. If you can afford it, it’s the best system in the world and the most technologically advance but access is the problem. They have the most expensive system on earth but the least comprehensive in terms of access in the developed world. Medicine is not a service but rather a business and big business drives government policy. As a society they spend more per capita then anyone else. If you are poor or middle class a major medical problem can cause sever financial hardship even if covered by some sort of insurance plan, which usually are not fully comprehensive. It’s not a model any European country should consider if they desire a universally accessible medical service.

Cuba’s system not to mention it’s healthcare are a fraud, at best it revivals some third world countries but has nothing to offer the developed world.

On the issue of governments getting involved in strikes, I agree with you on the merit of getting involved if a clear and pressing issue of national concern is evident. But our coal miners are not in that category and cheaper coal can be brought in from the east if there is a supply problem. The wives are a peripheral issue and yes the minister could have invited them for tea but surly he shouldn’t be negotiating with them.

We need to look at what a properly running modern free enterprise system needs to look like. Social justice and a smooth running FREE enterprise system are not incompitable concepts, but they take discipline and the art of forming consensus in society. Not the indiscipline of a knee jerk reaction from government intervening at every turn.

Poland is over regulated to compensate for it’s lack of a developed civil society, as that society matures (it’s only been 19 years) government needs to back off.

jannowak57 said...

Anon said: “is not quite true that Poland cannot have, e.g., German-standard health care because its GDP is lower. Its costs (salaries, building maintenance) are correspondingly lower too. There's plenty of money in the country but it's not being wasted on the sick.”

The whole issue of government spending in Poland needs to be addressed firstly they spend too much as a proportion of the GDP to place themselves into the position to have sustained high growth rates. What they spend is spent inefficiently.

In the area of health care Polish spending is in line with comparable societies such as Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics. Polish GDP per capita is the lowest of all four countries.

The per capita GDP in Germany is 223% greater than in Poland, if Poland maintained a growth rate of around 7 % it would take Poland well over a decade to substantively catch up providing Germany’s growth rate remained relatively small.

Polish health care does not use resources in an effective way, just as an example a women having a normal child birth will spent nearly 5 days in hospital in Poland versus less than 2 days in the US and Canada. The last time I checked Polish ladies were anatomically identical to American ladies. Some questions need to be asked.

The answer is to concentrate on building the economy and therefore generate the recourses that are necessary to have a better health care system.

beatroot said...

The whole issue of government spending in Poland needs to be addressed firstly they spend too much as a proportion of the GDP to place themselves into the position to have sustained high growth rates. What they spend is spent inefficiently.

That is undoubtedly right and it is a scandal of massive proportions. The public services need a revolution. The waste, inefficiency is scandalous. The culture in these places is mind boggling. They are not services at all – often they are seen as a kind of glorified social security system for the people that work there.

If the government had the guts it would take that culture on and make radical changes to personnel, management, I could go on.

If they did that then they would find the money for all the promises they have been making to raise wages in these places. But will they? Me thinks they will bottle it.

jannowak57 said...

Tusk’s career is based on style over substance so far. In governance it is easier to make the accommodation to maintain your power then to tackle the hard things that are involved with a true process of reform. It separates the bullshit artist from the real statesmen. He still has some time to get it right but I’m not prepared to bet any money on him as nothing in his past performance indicates his up to the task

Harry said...

The definition of a good government is one which is not noticed. The miners' strike is between a private company and a group of private individuals: if no laws are being broken, the government has no business being involved in any way.

As for the stock exchange falls of this week, the only way Tusk could have had any effect on those was to make them worse! By shutting up and doing nothing he left the effects at the extent they should have been at.

schaden freud said...

Invisible Hand. God. The Easter Bunny!

I beeee-leeve!

Anonymous said...

Keep it simple and on message: Pawlak did the right thing. The company and only the company should negotiate with it's employees. That is what the company's staff is hired and empowered to do. Shareholders do not get involved in employee negotiations no matter who the shareholders are. If Pawlak got involved, it would totally undermine (sorry) management's authority and would make them no more than figureheads and everyone in the future would go around them. The shareholders of course will either suffer or benefit based on the decisions of management as it relates to the results of their negotiations with their employees.

beatroot said...

If Pawlak got involved, it would totally undermine (sorry) management's authority and would make them no more than figureheads and everyone in the future would go around them.

I think that is a fair enough argument. But he didn;t just bugger off to Lublin - he insulted the miners by his remarks about their wives. Now that is not the right way to handle this situation.

Harry - voters do not go out and vote for something that is invisible. They want a proactive, creative government that brings about much needed reforms. What they have in Tusk and crew is a weak, dithering, directionless, already defensive nothingness.

Anonymous said...

Beetroot - did not see the comment Pawlak made about the wives. Certainly he should have been silent about the wives.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Beetroot, thanks for blogging, I enjoy reading your blog.

beatroot said...

The pleasure is all mine...

beatroot said...

And yeah, the wives comment was a mistake. Civic Platform are going to have to take on and get the cooperation of the unions, mining and otherwise, if they are really to make reforms. They need to make freinds, not foes.