Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Nation building - my wishes for Poland in 2014

I've long wanted Poland to be a pleasant place to live, a normal country, Scandinavianly boring, prosperous, without islands of glaring poverty, without ignorance or hatred. And to my delight, it's moving in that direction, albeit at a slow pace. To be able to find Poland's place in the world. one really needs to compare a wide selection of indicators across many countries - from wealth to health to happiness - and track these over time. In general, Poland is getting better, in many international rankings. But there's still lots more to do, a long way to travel before Poland can be as great a place as say Norway or Denmark to live.

So then, my fellow nation-builders - what do we need?

  • A Plain Polish campaign. Polish government authorities - and private companies (in particular the utilities) should communicate with citizens and customers clearly. No more gobbledegook! No more sentences of 100 or more words! No more irrelevant references to the chapter and verse of the law! It really is high time that Polish bureaucrats appreciated that it is their responsibility to write clearly - not the citizen's responsibility to attempt to understand their convoluted texts.

  • Safer roads. As I write, another BMW (why is it always BMWs?) driven by a drunken driver, ploughed into a group of people at a level crossing, killing six. Dangerous driving results in mass slaughter, several thousand Poles are killed needlessly by idiot drivers, and it occurs to few to SLOW DOWN. 50kmh means 50kmh, not 85. As I pointed out this time last year, more than six times as many Poles have been killed in road-accidents in modern Poland than were killed by Stalin at Katyń. Road safety must become a top priority for government. The cost of keeping several thousand people alive each year is minimal.

  • Polish universities need a shake-up. There are still way too many old-era professors blocking the advance of younger academics, who are multilingual, who have experience living and working abroad, who have a vision of how things can be. Poland's poor standing in research and development, in collaboration between business and academia, in creating science parks that can turn the fruits of academic study into profitable products or services, is mainly down to the heavy blanket of blinkered profs in their 60s and 70s. Time for them to shuffle off.

  • More civil society. By which I mean charities, volunteering, more public-spirited behaviour. No, putting a few zlotys into a collecting-tin for Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy once a year and allowing the government to give 1% of the tax it's taking from you to the charity of your choice is not enough. If Poland is to catch up in terms of the individual's attitude towards society, we need to move towards an understanding that we're all in it together, for one another's benefit. This message needs to be appreciated by every individual, not forced into them as communist-style collectivism was.
  • Let's be nicer to one another. Let's stop treating shop staff, security guys and office cleaners with cold disdain, bury that supercilious arrogance that comes with being financially better-off. We're all here together, so we should try to get along, with a smile, a dzień dobry, a dziękuję, a do widzenia as we go through our day.

  • A focus on economic sustainability. As Poland becomes more wealthy, there is the opportunity to stop obsessing about short-term gain and start looking ahead with a more long-term perspective. The economy is likely to accelerate this year - may the owners of the businesses that are making this happen also think long-term about their companies' competitiveness, investing in R&D, in new technologies, in their employees, in growth, in sustainability, in making their companies more resilient to external shocks. Government needs to cut borrowing, spend less on current costs (a smaller bureaucracy please, and invest more in capital projects to enhance the nation's infrastructure.

Less intolerance, less selfishness, less sense of entitlement, more kindness, more patience, more self-reliance and responsibility. In the next ten years, Poland really can become a much, much better place to live than it is today - which is a whole lot better than it was in 2004 or in 1989...

This time last year:
LOT's second Dreamliner over Jeziorki
(before the batteries started catching fire)

This time two years ag0:
New Year's coal train

This time six years ago:
Winter train


student SGH said...

A brilliant post for new-year opening.

Plain Polish - long way to go. It's not just a matter of one campaign, it's a matter of reshaping attitude towards written word of authors of official gobbledegook... Or using a stick and carrot?

Roads. BMW stands for: burak ma wózek or alternatively będziesz miał wypadek. No matter if it's a brand new BMW or a rickety 20-year-old one, as the one which smashed into pedestrians and killed six innocent people, I detest that make to such extent that I'd never, ever buy it...

Breaking news from RMF FM. After interrogating witnesses of the tragedy and passenger (sober) of the BMW the police says conceivably the driver could have purposefully run down those people.

Universities... How glad I have seen the back of that stage of my education...

Civil society. The recent incident about which I wrote on the blog was reassuring, but one swallow doesn't make a summer...

Economic sustainability - nothing else to add...

I would add more competence, more integrity and more common sense to that list. Competence may go to journalists (watching coverage of Kamien Pomorski accident in TVN24 I could only say ręce opadają, integrity to politicians and economic experts (vide pension funds debate), common sense to lawmakers.

AndrzejK said...

BMW's are not the only cars driven by cretins. Although I can understand the attraction to the young dispossesed of Mark 1 and 2 Gold GTI's I cannot understand the attraction of Hondas to boy racers. When overtaken by a Golf I can be pretty certain that it will soon be in a ditch (shot suspension and the inability of the drivers to understand that you change down when going into a corner, whilst the Honda will be standing at the next traffic lights having gained zilch.

To the list I would add the urgent need to give consumers real power when dealing with the (mainly foreign owned) utilities who are allowed legally to defraud and bamboozle the general public. I found it incredible that 10 years after joining the EU only recently has legislation been passed making retailers responsable for dodgy goods.