“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” The words of G.K. Chesterton seem particularly apposite this New Year’s Eve as we reflect especially on the new Polish government, which is certainly determined to start afresh about things, and no less determined to do something effective. Of course, what the effect will be we know not yet.
Off to a flying start, the president signed on Monday the new law which requires 13 of the 15 judges of the Constitutional Tribunal to sit and to reach a decision by a two-thirds majority, in place of the current majority decision taken by nine judges. President Duda defended PiS’s decision to make the changes to the Constitutional Tribunal, called on politicians on both sides of the political spectrum to end the fight, and asked political commentators to be objective. Prime Minister Beata Szydło has expressed the hope that this legislation might end the continuing conflict over the Constitutional Tribunal, but this one seems likely to continue well into the New Year.
Just to make sure that all commentators are indeed objectively objective (along the lines of all the animals were equal, but some were more equal than others, you might think) the Sejm voted on Wednesday to adopt a new law which will change how the heads of state media TVP and Polish Radio are chosen. According to PiS (Law and Justice) parliamentary-club leader Ryszard Terlecki, it is imperative that this issue is dealt with quickly, since the media cannot constantly criticise the changes in the law proposed by PiS. He argues that public media should not be part of the discussion, but should simply accurately convey the news. Quite right too. As usual, Woody Allen was there first in Love and Death with Boris Grushenko’s, “Yes, but subjectivity is objective.”
Be that as it may, back on piste PiS’s programme is going to plan with the Sejm having passed a bank tax which will see financial institutions pay 0.44 per cent of the value of their assets above certain tax-free thresholds. “Bank taxes have already been introduced in a majority of EU countries, and many other countries around the world. In this sense we are only doing the same as other countries, including the birthplace of capitalism – the UK,” commented the Minister of Development Mateusz Morawiecki. You can’t really argue with that.
PiS hopes that around PLN 4.4 billion (EUR 1.04 billion) a year will be raised by the tax, which will help to fund newly-announced child benefit payments and lowering the retirement age. And to raise even more money for this purpose, the proposed law to require shops with an area greater than 250 square metres to pay a two per cent tax on turnover will be consulted with the public consultations in early 2016, the Finance Minister told Polish Radio on Tuesday. Finance minister Paweł Szałamacha said that the tax should generate an additional PLN 2 billion.
And despite the gloom and doom mongers, there are some bright spots. The unemployment rate has been slowly decreasing in Poland all year, and in September fell to below ten per cent for the first time in 14 years. The first 11 months of the year “403,286 vacancy announcements were posted on pracuj.pl, an increase of 11.8 percent year on year,” the director of pracuj.pl, Rafał Nachyna, said in a recent report on the job market. Rather more modestly, Sławomir Majman, the head of PAIiIZ (the Polish foreign investment agency) , said at a press conference that the agency helped conduct 56 investments this year, creating 9,098 jobs – which is 300 more than last year.
Of course, I hear you say, PiS has yet to reach a cruising altitude, but I did wish to end on an optimistic note as befits New Year’s Eve. Or, as Benjamin Franklin advises: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every new year find you a better man.”
Thank you for reading, liking, commenting, and even disagreeing with me in 2105. I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope it brings you success.