Friday, 29 August 2008

So what was all that about, then?

Warsaw ground to a halt today as 18,000 (police estimate) or 30,000 (Solidarity claim) trade unionists gathered to protest... about what precisely? With their whistles and smoke bombs and firecrackers, marching - why? Jus' talkin' loud an' sayin' nothing, that's what they were doing.

These guys want to retire even earlier. (Poland already has the lowest average retirement ages in the EU). The trade unionists want the rest of us to fund them a cushy life while the rest of us have to work and pay taxes to cover their pensions. Only 28% of Poles aged 55-64 are at work, compared to 48% in feather-bed socialist France and 58% in free-market Britain. Again, the lowest indicator in the entire EU. (My father worked until he was nearly 70, my father-in-law until he was 71. They got on with it.)

It's not as if Poland's number one macroeconomic problem is unemployment - far from it. Poland's unemployment has fallen faster than any other EU member state. Unemployment is officially 1.7% in Poznan, 2.0% in Katowice, 2.2% in Warsaw and the Tri-City. (London's, by contrast, is 6.8%). Employers can't find people. Average wages in Poland have soared from 320 quid in May 2004 to 785 quid today - the effect of a booming economy, plummetting unemployment and a strong zloty. There still are pockets of deprivation in Poland, but they are mostly in rural parts (45% of Poland's registered jobless live in villages). Poland's biggest macroeconomic problem is inflation, stoked by high wage settlements, and an unreformed public budget.

"What do we want?" "Early retirement!"
"When do we want it?" "NOW!"

Poland's trade unions are dinosaurs. Their strongholds continue to be Poland's large, over-manned, uncompetitive, poorly-run state owned "enterprises" that should have been privatised long ago. They have hijacked the Solidarity brand (a political movement instrumental in overturning communism), and are run by populists who stir up discontent based on economic illiteracy.

Privatise the lot of them. Bureaucrats make poor managers. Throw the entire Polish state sector into the free market. Let it thrive like the rest of the Polish economy. The GDP figures for the second quarter of 2008 were released today. 5.8% growth year-on-year (compared to the UK's 1.6% or the Eurozone's sluggish 1.5% Q2 y-o-y GDP growth).

Monday morning, Plac na Rozdrozu: "The parade has passed, the clowns have gone"

This time last year:
Greenhouse sunset
I got those "woke up this mornin', someone done chopped down the wood" blues

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree with your comments about privatization 150% - sooner rather than later. Some will sink, some will float and others hopefully will pick up speed and really sail.

I was down near Lazienki park at the beginning of the 'festivities' and the biggest thing the demonstrators were asking was: where can I buy beer. I should have opened a beer and brats grill - would have made enough for my retirement!