Price of upgrading
In an effort to upgrade and update their arsenal, the Ministry of Defence (MON) plans to shut down 70 garrisons. These represent one-seventh of the total slated for liquidation as part of a six-year army
reform plan that also includes reducing the number of soldiers from 190,000 to 150,000 while selling off redundant infrastructure.
MON hopes to use these savings, amounting to approximately PLZ six billion (USD 242 million), toward the purchase of modern equipment. But what may be good for Poland's armed forces may not be thrilling to those living around the garrisons. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, petitions from deputies, senators, and local residence protesting the closings are already being sent to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and Defence Minister Bronisław Komorowski.
Józef Domań, from a local store in Gubin, complained, "We provide the army with bakery products everyday; our bakers and the driver will lose their jobs." A more optimistic Komorowski noted that towns could use the empty areas for potential future investment.
It may be an indication of a growing sector that the Labour Ministry has turned its attention on the third, or non-governmental sector. It is currently working on a new bill introducing more stringent requirements for non-government organizations' (NGOs) finance regulation. The draft comes as a response to a Supreme Board of Inspection (NIK) report that found that NGOs do not manage their finances properly.
"We hope the new bill will not introduce new bureaucratic obstacles, but make life easier for those who do not want to make profit out of people's poverty," said Marek Kotański, the head of Monar and Markot, NGOs that help those with drug addiction and HIV infection.
The police force has moved into the electronic age by acquiring equipment that makes it possible to monitor the content of private e-mail. High-speed, efficient computers armed with specialised software and massive capacity needed to break protection protocols in e-mail are up and running in the country. The police and secret services are understandably unwilling to disclose any details regarding their new equipment, revealing only that it has already been installed and that it cost them a pretty penny.
Of course the technology is intended for doing good rather than spying on the average citizen. Specifically, the police hope it will help them in the battle against organised crime, which has also discovered modern technology with e-mails becoming the most common method of communication between organised crime groups.
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's top foreign policy advisor, Jerzy Marek Nowakowski, was dismissed after making remarks that were interpreted as supportive of air raids on Baghdad. Following last Friday's air attack by the United States and Britain on military targets near Baghdad, Nowakowski commented that attack was a "resolute gesture of the new US administration" and that there is "no reason for us not to have understanding for the action."
Nowakowski tried to save himself with repeated insistence that he had commented as an analyst and not as a senior government official. This was to no avail, as French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine presumably picked up on the comment and named Poland and Canada as the only countries besides the participants who had voiced support for the air raid.
The foreign ministry insisted they did not have a position in regards to the events, but the damage was already done as Iraq's trade minister said that his country would no longer buy goods from Canada or Poland because they supported the air strikes.
Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft told Reuters, "Minister Nowakowski submitted his resignation, which was accepted, because of his unfortunate remarks which caused international complications."
"The lustration statement made by former deputy Prime Minister Janusz Tomaszewski is consistent with the law," ruled the Appeal Court yesterday. Tomaszewski was cleared of all charges by a special court which decreed he was not a spy after a former agent, who earlier testified against the veteran anti-Communist, told the "vetting" tribunal that he fabricated evidence linking the powerful politician to the hated secret police.
While Tomaszewski only smiled, his supporters created such uproar that judge Grzegorz Karziewicz threatened to remove them from the courtroom. It was found that there was no evidence of Tomaszewski's agreement to cooperate with the Special Services (SB) nor were there any traces in the case records that this commitment had ever been made. There are neither working nor personal files.
Critics said Tomaszewski's trial confirmed that the entire vetting process was unjust since Communist-era police files were unreliable and the trials were simply a way to settle political scores. And the critics come from the left and right. President Aleksander Kwaśniewski noted that, "From the start I felt that this case was not about vetting but rather an expulsion from the (Solidarity) party." And his long-term opponent, former President Lech Wałesa, said "Tomaszewski is a very effective politician ... but he was outmaneuvered by Krzaklewski and his gang. Now they're the ones looking foolish."
From the outset, observers suspected that the case was the result of a falling-out between the accused and then-AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski. Tomaszewski played a crucial role in the successful 1997 election campaign and had served as interior minister and deputy prime minister.
The ruling lifts the ten-year ban from public life imposed on Tomaszewski, and analysts believe that he will join the recently formed Citizens' Platform that is quickly gaining popularity. Prosecutor Bogusław Nizieński said he would appeal the verdict.
Sejm speaker and one of the leaders of the newly-formed Citizens' Platform, Maciej Plazynski, formally resigned from the ruling Solidarity Election Action (AWS). Plazynski said that he does not plan to resign from his post as speaker since he continues to believe it to be his duty, responsibility and a service he performs for his country.
Declining birth rates and high emigration have led to a decline in population. In 2000, the population fell by 10,000, or 0.02 per cent, to 38.644 million according to the Central Statistical Office (GUS). Some 20,000 Poles left the country in 2000, and the number of births fell to 378,000, down 44,000 from 1999.
"Poland went through a demographic depression in the 1990s which continues today. It is caused by decisions of young people to first finish their education and stabilise their economic situation before creating families and having children. According to our latest forecasts, the number of births in Poland is not expected to rise significantly before 2010," GUS said. The number of births per year has fallen by 30 per cent since 1990.
Joanna Rohozińska, 23 February 2001
Prawo i Gospodarka
Polska Agencja Prasowa
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