Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bits and pieces

It's Saturday and I am in a rush to grab a last-minute pint before the entire country starts commemorating on Sunday the Smolensk tragedy with political mudslinging, accusations of treason and squabbles  over how many monuments should be built. I have two proposals: one for each passenger, or, even better, let's turn every remaining part of the plane into a monument and have them spread all over the country.

Anyway here are some bits and pieces from the past few days that caught my eye.

Gonna start with me being right. See, Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad finally admitted what he does is not really privatisation but rather making state-owned companies into publicly listed ones. Why oh why the sudden frankness from the minister? Is it a moment of rare sincerity? No, unfortunately, it is a ploy to soothe warring coal mining labour unions opposing the privatisation of the JSW coal producer. The minister thus decided what he is doing is not privatisation at all and the unions need not worry. Will they buy it? Oh I am sure they will, but only once the number of free shares for the coal miner's employees is sufficiently increased.

President Bronislaw Komorowski, after a very thorough 6-day consultation with the nation, decided to sign the controversial pension "reform." Surprise, surprise! The president's chief aide had said that a lot of problems need to be addressed in terms of pensions, "mainly related to the very low level of expected pensions," or something along these lines. Oh well, I guess there is nothing that a 10 percentage point raise in taxes will not fix. Right!? So now we are waiting to see whether all these business lobbies, think-tanks, etc., opposing the change will make good on their promise to send the bill to the Constitutional Court. But for now Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski has got what he wanted: some 2 billion zlotys in monthly budget savings starting in May.

The US Energy Information Agency has really done it this time. Their recent report on shale gas prospects outside of the US gave bombastic forecasts for Poland as a potential shale gas leader in Europe with potentially the biggest reserves of some 187 trillion cubic feet. The report of course made front page headlines all over the press with papers already proclaiming that Poland has some 300 years of gas reserves. I already feel as rich as a Middle Eastern sheikh. For those of you, our dear readers, I attach a small map with potential shale gas locations. Consider it a Poland X real estate investment tip.

Oh, I almost forgot, as did nearly everyone in Poland, the Civic Platform's (PO) biggest corruption scandal -- the infamous "gambling gate." Well, the case was just thrown out by the prosecutor's office since "no signs of crime were documented." I don't know if this is good or bad, but I felt sentimental when I saw the former sport minister and PO caucus leader shown again in television. To think the entire scandal took place in 2009 and now is virtually forgotten just shows how short is Poles' political memory. The fact the prosecutor's decision barely made headlines also shows that the media, which at the time has proclaimed the main actors of the scandal guilty while Prime Minister Donald Tusk has executed them politically, moved on long ago. That is infotainment for you dear readers in its pure form. By the way, this should be another question for our Poland X quiz: who the hell are Mr. Drzewiecki or Mr. Chlebowski?

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