Friday, January 21, 2011

The week in review...

It was beaucoup busy this past week in Poland. On the economic front, the Polish economy was shown to be humming along, though price pressures could be building. In a pre-emptive move, the Monetary Policy Council raised interest rates for the first time in over two and a half years. This won't be the last hike either. Dominating the air and virtual waves this week, though, was the continuing fallout from the April 10 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and a big swathe of the political elite.

Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the forest. Here, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks at the Polish growth model and asks what's the secret to its success: 20 straight years of economic growth and recent move into the World Bank's group of high-income economies.

Tip for travellers: don't carry crocodiles in your luggage. It is not only illegal, it is cruel.

The Financial Times' Jan Cienski curtain-raised for the Wednesday Monetary Policy Council sitting that produced the 25 basis point rate hike, but he got carried away. He says the "overwhelming majority" of analysts expected a hike, later clarifying this to be 17 of 25 economists. Hmmm, let's look at this in another way: 17/25 is also 68%. Let's toss this again. If your doctor said you had a 32% chance of dying, I doubt many of us would find that underwhelming. His talk of the zloty being weak is a little loose as well as from the MPC's December 22nd policy sitting to the January 19th policy decision, the zloty strengthened 2.6% to the euro and 4.8% to the dollar.
Dow Jones' Leon Rousek covers Polish Deputy Finance Minister Dominik Radziwill as he looks at the flip-side of the woes afflicting the euro-zone's periphery: Poland's standing has grown. Investor interest in 'the only EU country that grew in 2009' is said to be big as Europe mostly stumbles. One just wonders when 'the only EU country that grew in 2009' will turn itself into the 'country that puts its public finances in order.'

In a week that started out with the announcement Poland's favourite pope, the late John Paul the Third, er, Second, will be beatified in the spring, I found a winner for this week's 'ahh, are you sure you meant to say that.' The Toronto Sun runs a Reuters article entitled, and I quote, "Nun says late pope gave her 'second birth.'" Ahem. The pope was well-loved, but, er, not in that way . . . .

And of course there's the internal and external rows over the Smolensk plane crash. The ruling Civic Platform, which seems internally divided on its strategy, is battling it out with the opposition Law and Justice, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of Lech Kaczynski, who died in the crash. The Poles this week struck back at the Russians, who framed the issue as being Poland's fault. The Polish release made the Russians look a lot more culpable, though of course, as in all plane crashes, the real blame should be laid on all the tiny little events that amassed until the tragedy. Here's one take on it from Time magazine.

The mighty Economist, however, felt that duelling reports between two historical enemies about a crash that killed a president and scores of the ruling elite was not news. Instead, the biggest story in Poland this past week was some sort of souring of relations with Lithuania. . . zzzzzz, oh, I'm sorry I fell asleep writing.
The final link of the week shows the heroic side of Poland based on its stormy history -- bloodlands indeed. A new movie is out now about the escape from Siberia of a group of Polish prisoners. Here's a taste: "It's not our guns or wire or dogs that form your prison. Siberia is your prison" . . . cue evil Russian laugh.

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