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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » July 1, 2009
POLITICS AND ECONOMY
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FM Survives No-Confidence Vote
July 1, 2009 By W.¯.    
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Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski survived a vote of no confidence in the lower house of parliament June 25 after deputies overthrew a motion submitted by the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party.

PiS sought to remove Rostowski claiming he has handled the country's finances poorly amid the global crisis and concealed the extent of its economic problems. A total of 193 deputies voted to dismiss Rostowski, 223 deputies defended him, and five abstained.

The minimum required majority to get rid of Rostowski was 231 votes. All 196 deputies from the senior governing coalition party, Civic Platform (PO), present in the room stood up for Rostowski, and he was also supported by 25 deputies from the junior coalition partner, Polish People's Party (PSL). One left-wing and one unaffiliated deputy voted against the PiS motion as well. The motion was backed by 142 deputies from PiS, 38 leftist MPs, six from the Polska XXI grouping, two deputies from the Polish Social Democracy-New Left group, and five unaffiliated.

After the vote, Rostowski said he kept his job because the government was pursuing the right financial policy. He added the arguments of the opposition had been "exceptionally weak."

Pushing for a vote of no confidence against Rostowski, PiS argued the finance minister should have forced the government to take action in conjunction with the financial crisis and draw the public's attention to the country's deteriorating economic performance.

PiS pushed for a vote of no confidence in Rostowski for the second time during the current parliamentary term. The first time, in June last year, 150 deputies voted against Rostowski, 235 defended him, and no one abstained.

While putting the latest no-confidence motion before the house, PiS deputy Aleksandra Natalli-¦wiat, deputy chairwoman of the lower house committee on public finances, accused Rostowski of adopting unrealistic budget targets for 2009. "PO knows little about the economy and refuses to listen to opinions and advice from various circles," Natalli-¦wiat said. She added that the government and Rostowski were concentrating on projecting a positive image of themselves instead of looking after the country's finances.

A few days before the vote, Rostowski declared he would raise this year's deficit target.

"The latest budget amendment is a spectacular failure," Natalli-¦wiat said. She added that "maintaining a budget that everybody knows was unrealistic" was an "extremely irresponsible form of disorganizing public finances."

In response to the accusations, Rostowski said that Poland is in better shape economically than other countries because the government had resisted pressure from the opposition to increase public debt.

"Ever since the crisis began, the opposition has been accusing the government of acting chaotically whenever we revised our forecasts," Rostowski said. "In the past couple of days, the announcement of a higher budget deficit has become the key argument to back the claim. These are all false accusations, because with each forecast, the government made it clear that the crisis means uncertainty and that it will take time to assess the full impact of the crisis." According to Rostowski, "the opposition's propaganda adds to the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the global crisis."

If the government had decided to amend the 2009 budget earlier, Rostowski said, spending would have to be cut far more radically. As it stands, the government plans to cut spending by zl.22.7 billion this year.

Rostowski said the government was preparing an "exit plan" to lead Poland out of the excessive debt trap. "The plan will span the 2010-2012 period," Rostowski said. "Over this time, it may turn out that taxes will have to be raised, but the government will make sure that the increases, if they happen, are as small as possible. The rule is simple: the bigger the savings the smaller the tax increases. This is our strategy." Rostowski added that "Poland has taken a responsible, economical and efficient road out of the crisis."

According to Rostowski, the government "has chosen a way to fight the crisis based on the belief that Poland's main strength are its people and their hard work and enterprise."

On the one hand, PiS politicians condemned the government for a "mistaken policy," while on the other they kept saying Poland had the best economic results in Europe, Rostowski said. "If we followed the road proposed by PiS and gave up all our savings efforts and work to generate extra revenue, the budget deficit would reach zl.66 billion instead of the projected zl.27 billion," Rostowski said.

In defending Rostowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the finance minister takes credit for the country's good economic performance in comparison with other countries. "If we had felt that public finances and the economy were in the hands of incompetent people, we wouldn't have waited for a vote of no confidence," Tusk said.
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