Joshua Foer - “How I learned a language in 22 hours”
Jonathan Sacks - God’s Politics…
in Foreign Affairs Nov/Dec 2012
Jonathan Sacks - God’s Politics. The Lessons of the Hebrew Bible.
in Foreign Affairs Nov/Dec 2012
Today, the Left, […] has shifted from talking about reducing poverty to pushing for “the reduction of inequality” - a result of the failure of decades of welfare spending to accomplish its stated goal.
(One can succeed in reducing inequality simply by damaging the highest-earning citizens - and without helping the lowest-income earners at all. Recessions and sluggish growth both would accomplish this end. Thus, Obama’s economic policies, which have caused poverty and unemployment to increase, can be reckoned a partial success in the new war on inequality.)"
Grover G. Norquist - Are Taxes Too Damn High? The Debate About The Rate
in Foreign Affairs Nov/Dec 2012
This interview by Agata Nowakowska and Dominika Wielowieyska from Gazeta Wyborcza, biggest daily newspaper in Poland with Minister Eżbieta Bieńkowska has appeared on the 29 October. In it, the minister is asked about 2014-2020 EU budget negotiations and Poland’s position. Minister Bieńkowska is considered one of the best ministers in the current and previous governments of Prime Minister Tusk. She has been recognized as a professional and pragmatic manager able to effectively process large european funds that Poland receives from the EU. Focusing on her job, she does not participate in day to day politics. (The interview was translated from Polish.)
Agata Nowakowska, Dominika Wielowieyska [Gazeta Wyborcza]: The opposition says: “PLN 300 bln from the European Union or death.”
Elżbieta Bieńkowska [Ministry of Regional Development]: From the beginning it was clear that the €80bln written down in the EU budget project for 2014-2020 is an initial budgetary position. At the end it might be a little less. In the current budget perspective it was €68bln, in the next that sum might start with number seven.
With the current euro exchange rate at 4,15 zl that PLN 300bln should be easy to achieve?
It seems rather impossible that it would be less than PLN 300bln. Admittedly, until that is actually the case, we remain concerned… But surely there will be more funds than up to now.
In other case should Poland veto the EU budget? The British do not fear the veto.
I do not understand this position and I think they will not use it in the end. I reject the veto because that would mean rejecting the whole idea and the future of the EU. The budget should be agreed this year.
Nevertheless, there will be a fight for the money.
Until now, on the highest levels, among the heads of governments, discussion revolved around cuts to the cohesion funds. But that is precisely this part of the budget which is fueling the economy. That money go to the entrepreneurs, infrastructure is being financed with it. In all countries, not only the poorest. Luckily about a month ago during the Cyprus presidency new view emerged - that if we are to discuss cuts than these cuts need to be applied evenly across the whole budget. There are no serious arguments that would exclude Common Agricultural Policy from the debate.
Do you support reduction of direct subsidies to polish farmers?
CAP is based on direct subsidies - which in my opinion is an inefficient system of paying farmers - and money for rural areas. The latter program makes sense, is needed and beneficial, because it brings rural development, new jobs and and real, unprecedented change.
Your partner in coalition, PSL [rural party in coalition with PO], will not like what you say.
PSL understands the necessity of introducing reform, of focusing on development of rural areas. I am in contact with the Ministry of Agriculture [and Rural Development] and I find many people there with whom I can discuss this. Moreover, the ‘agricultural’ negotiations are managed by minister Stanislaw Kalemba from PSL.
Waldemar Pawlak [Leader of PSL] will fear that he is criticized for too small direct subsidies.
Premier Waldemar Pawlak is a minister of economy and as such he is engaged in programs directed at entrepreneurs, including those wanting to grow their businesses in rural areas. If we manage to negotiate a large cohesion policy budget, he will appreciate it and he will know how to convince the countryside that it is beneficial to it.
Do you want to scare off large number of voters? Farmers want direct subsidies because everyone would like to receive money for nothing.
I am sure that the farmers approach this issue differently. I have a great deal of respect for their work and their rational approach to economy. Farmers need money for infrastructure in rural areas. They know that thanks to cohesion funds their children will get jobs. That kind of money will be available. We plan to direct some of the funds at smaller centers of economic activity which serve their areas and regions working as engines for local development - especially in rural areas. This is a novelty. No one before us had this idea in Poland, and we are going to implement it.
Farmers who use direct subsidies to buy e.g. tractors also strengthen the economy.
We must support that type of spending which creates chances of multiplying the benefits in a 5-10 years perspective. Direct subsidies are not that kind of spending. That money, invested in regional politics and development of rural areas would give much better results: higher rise of GDP, more tax incomes. There is a difference between funds for development and money being given to hand. But I would like to underline this: the decision about direct subsidies will be made on the highest political level, between ministers and heads of state.
From farmers perspective subsidies are crucial. They might feel as if they are denied their livelihood.
It is not as if something was cut and there is nothing else left. We need to use these money in a more rational way. Everybody knows that agricultural policy needs to change in that direction, but most fear to say it. Also MEP’s of PiS [Law and Order - main opposition party] know that this is beneficial for Poland’s development. Someone needs to have the courage to say it. Some do not want to change anything in agricultural policy, they cannot see how the world is changing - they cling to the old system, live in a virtual world, use money to support what already is and that is it. That is now how it should be and I am convinced that many farmers caring for their farms, for raising their productivity and their incomes, think alike.
PiS will say that we have lost, that we are suckers because we have lower subsidies than e.g. the French.
Any reasonable person should understand where this money will be put to best use, bear highest interest. No one, and surely not us, argues for complete elimination of subsidies. But for several years we have been facing a crisis in Europe. Everybody talk about: “Cuts, cuts, cuts!” So maybe it is time to limit the subsidies where they are the highest? They are not highest in Poland. And one should not give away money without checking what happens with them later.
This are arguments for PiS which fights for rural electorate with PSL. Are you expecting such offensive?
If we manage to succeed in receiving large funding for cohesion policies and development of rural areas we will have a mechanism that will allow us to bring to Poland prosperity comparable with that of Western Europe.
You are heading for a disaster. You will boast of a success in gaining PLN 300bln and PiS will say that polish farmers were robbed! Why are you not convincing people already that thanks to the cohesion funds they will have a job?
I accept this criticism of our information policy, but it needs to be said that currently it is difficult to reach the media with a good information. If something goes without trouble, than there is little interest in it.
Unless prime minister Tusk walks out to say something, there is nothing happening in this government.
In a stable country people do not need to know what is the name of the minister, it is enough that everything functions as it should. Ministers should be judged by the effects of their work. We have a great Minister of Labour who, like me, speaks little in the media, but he has introduced a pension reform that many other european countries have not managed to. Not long ago I have heard professor Leszek Balcerowicz - whose opinions I have always appreciated - saying that extending maternal leave to one year will not encourage women to have babies. I have three children and I think that introducing a longer maternal leave is the best available idea. It was Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz [Minister of Labour] who introduced this new regulation. But together with Wladyslaw we are not active in the media.
Is this the strategy of the government: we will allow cuts in the CAP so that there are less reduction in the cohesion funds?
The strategy is to get as much funding for Poland as possible. We have made one step for the last 5-7 years. Without this money we would need 20 or more years. We have covered the infrastructure gaps: roads that were built in the West for decades have been built here quicker. Now we need to make another step: invest in projects that will create basis for economic development in coming years.
Prime minister and minister of finance Jacek Rostowski say that the state needs to keep up a certain level of investments because we have used european funds available to us until 2014.
European funds are slowly being depleted but they are constantly working in the economy. In 2013-2014 we will be spending PLN 50 bln each year from the available funds and money coming back from Brussels will still cover our expenses.
Prime minister forces PO [Platforma Obywatelska - ruling party] MPs to vote against harsher abortion rules?
Prime minister has explained that it is better not to change the existing compromise. Some of the MPs have realized that supporting the project presented by SP [Solidarna Polska - small group of right wing MPs who left PiS] will stir up a war around abortion, which they did not want. They have realized that they have been used. Most of them must feel sorry they haven’t realized earlier. But I am fed up with listening about controversies surrounding abortion. I am glad that this situation has returned to the pre-”row” state. The minister of regional development works on other issues important to the future of the country, on which the future of many people depends. And here we are discussing grass on the national stadium. This is absurd.
The prime minister himself says that there was a lot of rain, that there is no management on the stadium…
What is he supposed to do when each news programme begins by discussing the roof? The opposition laments and provides false information. This is the kind of media we have and this is the kind of opposition we have: they prefer to discuss trivialities and not serious problems.
Link to the polish version of the interview on www.wyborcza.pl:
FT: How do you see negotiations on the next EU budget, and is Poland likely to get a similar level of funding to the current budget?
Jacek Rostowski: We should get a similar level of funding. One of the things we need to remember is that one of the major factors driving change in the global economy is the way that infrastructural investments in China are bringing in somewhere in the range of 15 to 20m people into the world economy every year. It is those investments that are shifting the world’s economic centre of gravity towards China. Relatively low-skilled jobs are inevitably leaving the North Atlantic, and particularly western Europe. They can either all go to central China or they can partly go to central Europe, to the new EU member states. Which option is better for Western Europe? It would seem to be absurd to complain about the competition we face from China without doing anything to ensure that some of that shift doesn’t happen. Obviously jobs that move from western Europe to central and eastern Europe create demand which it will be easier for west European firms and businesses to satisfy than if those jobs were shifted all the way to China. It’s really the case now as never before that cohesion funds are really and truly the best pan-European structural policy.