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The Warsaw Voice » Business » July 2, 2010
Business & Economy
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New Chief for Central Bank Appointed
July 2, 2010   
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Economists and foreign investors have broadly welcomed the appointment of Marek Belka, a former prime minister and ex-finance minister, as governor of Poland’s central bank.

Belka replaced Sławomir Skrzypek, who died in the April 10 air disaster when the Polish president’s plane crashed near Smolensk, western Russia. Belka was nominated by Bronisław Komorowski, the Speaker of the lower house, who took over as acting president ahead of early presidential elections.

Some opposition politicians opposed this way of appointing a new head of the central bank. They argued that a candidate for the post should be nominated by a democratically elected president.

Deputy prime minister and economy minister Waldemar Pawlak of the Polish People’s Party (PSL) was also against Belka’s appointment. Pawlak said discussion about monetary policy and measures to be taken by the central bank to ensure currency stability and economic growth was needed more urgently than choosing a new central bank president. But the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party and junior coalition partner PSL did not have a sufficient number of votes to block the appointment. The ruling Civic Platform (PO) and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party, with which Belka had been associated, had enough votes in the parliament to install Belka in his new post.

Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said Belka was a professional economist who knew the dangers facing the European economy. “He is the man who supervised the Greek program and recently the Hungarian program. So he knows the problems which exist in Europe and which may later affect the Polish economy,” Rostowski said. “He is a person aware of the dangers, something I did not always see in the National Bank of Poland in the past one-and-a-half years.”

Prof. Witold Orłowski of PricewaterhouseCoopers thinks Marek Belka is one of the best possible choices for the post of central bank president. “In Poland, there are many very good economists but Marek Belka not only has an extensive knowledge of economics but also vast political and financial experience gathered in Poland and internationally,” Orłowski said. He said Belka guarantees that Poland’s monetary policy will be pursued in a consistent, reasonable, cautious and professional manner.

After his appointment, Belka said neither the central bank nor Poland’s monetary policy needed a “revolution.” “One only needs to send a strong signal to market players that the zloty is stable, that the Polish economy is stable and that the National Bank of Poland and all Polish authorities, that is the government and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority, have the will to work together,” Belka told reporters.

Belka supports the adoption of the euro by Poland, but had never tried to set a target date. “It would not be good if the central bank president became involved in touting dates regarding Poland’s entry into the eurozone,” he said. Belka believes Poland benefited from not being a eurozone member in 2008-2009. The zloty, which had been on an upward trend before the crisis, weakened, helping the Polish economy, especially exporters.

Belka is opposed to currency interventions designed to keep the value of the zloty at a specific level because, he says, suggesting the target price of the Polish currency is not the responsibility of the central bank. But he does not rule out currency market interventions as a means of counteracting excessive volatility of the zloty.

His promise to take measures to stabilize the zloty was welcomed by foreign business in Poland because the volatility of the Polish currency hampers the operations of companies on the international market.

Marek Belka started his career in the public administration sector in 1990 as an adviser at the Finance Ministry, Privatization Ministry and the Central Planning Office. He entered politics after the presidential election of 1995, when he became economic adviser to President Aleksander Kwa¶niewski. In 1997, on Kwa¶niewski’s recommendation, he became finance minister in the Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz government. He resigned in October 1997, but held the post of finance minister again in 2001-2002 in the Leszek Miller government, in which he was also deputy prime minister. In 2003, Belka was responsible for the formation of an interim government in Iraq as head of the International Coordination Council. He was responsible for currency reform in Iraq, the formation of a new banking system in the country and general supervision of the country’s economy as director for economic policy in the Coalition Provisional Authority. In May 2004, Belka was appointed Polish prime minister, resigning in October 2005. He continued his career in international institutions in 2006, when he became executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. From January 2009 he was director of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund.

Belka is the winner of The Warsaw Voice’s Chair of the Year award for 2004. In December 2004, Voice editor-in-chief Andrzej Jonas wrote: “A steadfast professor of economics, he has found himself in the whirlwind of politics because he is an expert on the economy and knows what the government should do to make it develop in the right direction—and not because he has been lured by the corridors of power and the glitter of its fool’s gold. Politics—well, it’s an indispensable tool these day. So Marek Belka, a diligent academic and a hardworking researcher, has been forced to hone his political skills.”
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