Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pushing the limits

I wonder what one has to do to get fired from Prime Minister Donald Tusk's liberal, reformist government. Looking at the entire term, the cabinet has turned out to be surprisingly stable given that it is also a coalition government. There were no dramatic "exits" from the coalition partner or no "last minute" talks to save the coalition. In fact, only five ministers were dismissed in the more than three years the government has been in office. But was it really that peaceful? Or are these guys just welded to their posts?

Looking at the latest events it is stunning what a minister can get away with these days. The defence and infrastructure ministers stand out from the crowd in this regard, and it is hard to believe either of them still has a job.

Defence Minister Bogdan Klich probably has the worst track record in post-communist history with two major air crashes of military airplanes, one the ill-fated Smolensk flight in which President Lech Kaczynski was killed; the second a military transport crash back in 2008 that left 20 high-ranking air force officials dead.

This is not just a matter of bad luck on the minister's part. Reports following both accidents have painted the picture of a largely incompetent air force that is ill equipped, ill trained and insufficiently paid. This forces pilots to take extra duties and flights, making civilian jobs for the most competent ones ever more tempting. Over the course of Minister Klich's term nothing has changed. NOTHING. Not even in the supposedly most elite squadron responsible for flying VIPs. The Smolensk crash is a direct result of that.

One has to ask themselves, WTF? What is so special about this guy that such mistakes are tolerated?

The second example is not as clear cut, but anyone who has driven in Poland, especially in the spring, will know that the infrastructure minister's job is a hot seat. Poles always complain about the state of their roads, and with some reason. For all those who have not had the pleasure, check this link out.

Infrastructure Minister Cezary Grabarczyk has always looked to be on the chopping block. He seems doomed again as he announced anew yet another delay in Poland's road-building efforts (you know the roads that were supposed to be ready for the Euro 2012 soccer championships but will now be done in 2015) because "there is no money."

The delays come on the back of utter chaos in the Polish railways during the early winter: trains stopped in the middle of nowhere, multi-hour delays were the rule, fake schedules were published, and chaos reigned supreme. Just the uproar from people trying in vain to get home over the Christmas period sparked a massive debate on the minister's future. In the end, he was given a yellow card, a last chance to redeem himself. Humbled, he promised Polish state railways would be fixed.

Today the headline hit that Mr. Grabarczyk has been hiring friends and political allies from his region to work at his ministry. His response? "I don't deny knowing these people. They are experts."

Yeah, probably railway and road building experts.

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