The Menace of Recession?

PLN 500 for Families

PLN 500 for Families

According to reports, the money provided to families as part of the “Family 500+” programme, launched by the Polish government on April 1, is quickly returning to the stock market. However, an increase in retail sales during the first half of 2016 has not been as significant as was expected. The problem lies with deteriorating market moods amongst entrepreneurs, fewer investments by business and a poor situation on the construction market. Experts assume that this is why the Polish GDP annual growth rate projected in this year’s Finance Act will likely not be achieved. “Following the first half of 2016, we have experienced economic growth that would be the pride of many western European countries, however, current Polish GDP is still too far from the 3.8% projected in the Finance Act for 2016,” said Grzegorz Ogonek of XTB. He continues: “500+ has proved to be driving retail sales but it is not capable of carrying the entire economy”. The XTB expert also expressed his surprise and deep concern over the deteriorating PMI in Poland. “It seems like half of Poland’s entrepreneurs are expecting an economic slowdown,” Ogonek said.

Battle for Błaszczykowski

Kuba Błaszczykowski

Kuba Błaszczykowski

There is no doubt that this summer has been particularly hot for Polish international Jakub Błaszczykowski, former captain of the national football team. Last season, spent at Fiorentina, was rather average for Błaszczykowski, where the winger mostly sat on the bench due to injury and a lack of form. His run of misfortune was broken during Euro 2016 in France  where he was widely considered one of the best performers. The Polish team, managed by Adam Nawałka, reached the quarter-finals and Błaszczykowski won the hearts of Polish fans by scoring two goals. The tide, however, again turned in France with the winger failing to score the decisive penalty during Poland’s final game against Portugal, ending Poland’s hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals. What is more, Błaszczykowski’s fate has been hanging in balance ever since the change of manager at his parent club Borussia Dortmund. According to “Kicker”, Germany’s leading sport magazine, there is no place for Błaszczykowski at Borussia anymore and there are even voices saying that he is to be replaced by Andre Schuerrle, Marco Reus or Ousmane Dembele. He may have a contract for two more years at Borussia, but many European clubs such as Hertha Berlin, Wolfsburg, West Ham, Southampton and Liverpool have already begun battling for Błaszczykowski. Kuba has turned down offers from more ‘exotic’ clubs, Beijing and Chicago Fire, to name but two. The player himself is more hopeful of a deal in Germany or England.

President on a Leash

Who's in Control?

Who’s in Control?

It has been over a week since Warsaw hosted the NATO summit, however, regardless of how successfully the capital of Poland handled the challenge of preparing the event, comments and heated discussions about the nature of current Polish policy continue. Marcin Kierwański, PO (Civic Platform) MP, stated that as long as the Polish government avoids responsibilities for its actions, Poland will not be treated as a partner amongst other democratic countries. What is more, the MP believes that the fact that President Duda’s actions are constantly ‘supervised’ by the leader of PiS (Law and Justice) also affects the image and credibility of Poland. “The joint press conference with Barack Obama demonstrated that President Andrzej Duda is not able to free himself of Jarosław Kaczynski’s influence,” Kierwański continues. The MP reiterated that during the summit, the US President clearly stated that NATO is not just a military alliance, it is also a community with democratic values and Poland needs to share these values, which are the foundation of the organisation. “If Poland is to remain an example of democracy for the rest of the world, there is still more work to be done regarding the impasse surrounding the Polish Constitutional Tribunal,” Obama said. According to Kierwański, Duda is aware that the remarks made by Obama are ultimately true, but he is not able to free himself from Kaczyński. “After being lectured by President Obama, President Duda decided that it is better to remain silent and pretend that everything is fine,” the MP added.

Indian Hope in Refugee Crisis

Poland's Maharaja Saviour

Poland’s Maharaja Saviour

“This is a history of Poland, but also a history of each rescued child,” said PM Beata Szydło during the opening ceremony of the unique exhibition entitled Passage to India. Polish camps in Balachadi and Valivade 1941/1948. The Polish Prime Minister thanked the organisers and emphasised that Poland respects freedom, tolerance and helping the needy because Polish history has not been easy. The exhibition, put together by the Polish History Museum, presents the story of thousands of Polish civilians, including children, who were freed under the Soviet amnesty in 1941 and together with the army of General Anders were evacuated from the Soviet Union to Iran and then to India. 6,000 of the 40,000 Polish people imprisoned in the USSR lived in the Indian camps of Balachadi and Valivade under the care of the Polish government-in-exile. United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Cristina Gallach highlighted the fact that Polish refugee children received a new home thanks to Maharaja Jam Saheb Sri Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji of Nawangar State who provided the initial funding for an orphanage in Balachadi. Gallach said that the Maharaja’s act should be an inspiration to us all. The impressive Passage to India exhibition includes photos of the kolkhoz in Ammala, members of Anders’ Army released from the Soviet gulags and starving orphans. There are also maps showing the route Anders’ Army took through the USSR to the Middle East, pictures of refugees from Avhaz in Iran, a refugee train at Valivade station as well as photos of the everyday life of refugees in the camps of Balachadi and Valivade. One of the honorary guests at the exhibition was Henry Bobotek who lived in Balachadi camp in India. He thankfully only spent one year there because his mother managed to get to America where he joined her after the war.

Abortion Ban Imminent?

Abortion Ban?

Abortion Ban?

The Polish government’s ideas about restricting abortion is an extremely hot topic. Recently, there was a debate in Poland’s Sejm (the Lower House) entitled “Contraception and terminating pregnancies – should we be worried?”, and with it some interesting facts came to light. Professor Romuald Dębski of the Medical University of Warsaw discussed the role of gynaecologists under the new law, and how it may affect their actions in various situations during pregnancies. The new regulations mean doctors will not be allowed to perform certain procedures, under penalty of a 3-year prison sentence. “If a foetus has pre-eclampsia in its 32nd week, I will have to let the baby die. If I perform a Caesarean and the baby dies, I could face a 3-year sentence,” said Professor Dębski. Moreover, Draginja Nadazdin, the director of Amnesty International Polska, broached the subject of women who have had a miscarriage and could be investigated by the public prosecutor wishing to discover whether or not they have committed a crime. Many experts are alarmed at the consequences of the new legislation and wish it to be discussed in greater detail to help the Polish public understand what it will mean.

From Kraków to Warsaw

Kraków - Former Capital City

Kraków – Former Capital City

Exactly 420 years has passed since the capital of Poland was moved from Kraków to Warsaw. In March 1596, the Polish king (of Swedish origin) Sigismund III Vasa moved his entire court to the region of Mazovia (Polish: Mazowsze), which in the late 16th century was already a centre of strategic importance and a rapidly developing area within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The decision to move the Polish capital was probably not only driven by the fact that the assembly of the Polish parliament (Polish: Sejm) was held that year in Warsaw, but also because of a fire that devastated Wawel Castle in Kraków. What is more, Warsaw is situated much closer to Sweden, the homeland of King Sigismund, who planned to retake the Swedish crown. “The year 1596 may well be considered the date of moving the capital of Poland from Kraków to Warsaw, but it in fact was a very long process, which lasted until 1609,” said Krzysztof Zwierz, of the Warsaw Research department of the Museum of Warsaw. “The king was simply going to participate in the Sejm and the fact that he remained with his court in Warsaw was due to certain political reason that took place at the time. Furthermore, the future capital of Poland was considered a thriving large city with more opportunities and well-developed trade routes,” he adds. Regardless of the potential that Warsaw had back then, it was Kraków that remained the official capital and the venue for the coronations of the majority of Poland’s kings, however, Warsaw gradually began to take over these diplomatic and political functions.

President Helps Swiss Franc Payers

Swiss Franc

Swiss Franc

Poland’s Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) has calculated the costs of the new draft act on financial aid to those citizens paying off mortgages in Swiss Francs, put forward at the behest of the President. The costs, it appears, are gigantic. The KNF believes that the financial consequences of the act would “not only upset the stability of some banks, but also, in a worst-case scenario, cause a financial crisis”. Aid for Franc-payers was one of Andrzej Duda’s key presidential campaign promises. The Office of the President has prevaricated for a long while in presenting the draft act, putting it forward as late as mid-January. Despite claims that fees for Swiss Franc mortgage lenders would be converted into a “fair” exchange rate, the draft did not include any calculations of the financial consequences thereof. Members of the Office of the President asked the KNF to prepare the appropriate calculations. It appears, however, that the KNF’s opinion of the act is crushing. According to the KNF: “there is a group of banks for which the deficit in their own capital is significant; this would decrease even more sharply after the mortgage restructuring process, below safety levels”. What is more, we have to be aware and open to the periodic market disturbances that never fail to appear, which, on top of this restructuring process, would significantly weaken the Polish złoty. The Office of the President is currently analysing the expert opinion of the KNF.