PiS Pledges New Jobs, Better Healthcare
March 3, 2014
Poland’s largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), unveiled a new set of policies Feb. 15 focusing on new jobs, reforms of the healthcare system and help for Polish families.
Three months before the May elections to the European Parliament, PiS is ahead of the Civic Platform (PO), the senior partner in the coalition government, leading by as much as 10 percentage points in some opinion polls. The European Parliament ballot is the first in a string of elections scheduled to be held in Poland over the next two years, including local authority elections in the autumn and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015.
PiS wants the National Health Fund (NFZ), the institution in charge of transferring government funds to hospitals and all other public health centers, to be closed down as soon as possible. PiS claims the National Health Fund is one of main reasons the Polish healthcare system is not working properly. The party wants the fund replaced with a system under which money for health services is managed directly by the Ministry of Health—the set-up in Poland before the collapse of communism in 1989. PiS said it also “categorically objects to any further commercialization and privatization of hospitals.” The next priority for PiS is to tackle unemployment. One of its proposed methods is an active investment policy partially funded by higher taxes on banks and hypermarkets. Law and Justice also wants to reverse the decision the government made last year to raise the retirement age to 67 for both men and women. PiS aims to change the age back to 65 for men and 60 for women. Economists have voiced doubts, however, arguing that such a measure is unrealistic due to population aging. According to PiS, one of the biggest dangers facing Poland has been the declining birth rate for the past several years. In order to counter the process, PiS says family-friendly policies are needed, founded on a system of guaranteed benefits for families with many children.
According to the party, women should have a guarantee that after their maternity leave ends, they will be able to return to the same position at work that they had before. At the same time, maternity leave should be gradually extended beyond the current 26 weeks, according to PiS.
Critics of the plans say PiS has not specified how the proposed reforms would be funded. On presenting the policies, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that the reforms could be largely financed by the EU, but that would take “persuading the European partners” that such financing was necessary. According to the ruling coalition, such expectations are unrealistic.