Merging the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy into a single Ministry of Infrastructure is a rational and justifiable decision.
As the Minister of Regional Development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska is responsible for elaborating strategies for the spending of EU funds. A significant portion of these funds is dedicated to developing transport infrastructure. The national roads construction program for 2008-2012 alone involved 120 bln PLN of which 97 bln PLN were EU funds.
In the new financial perspective for 2014-2020 Poland will have nearly 305 bln PLN at its disposal, of which ca. 25-30% will be assigned to the development and modernization of infrastructure. Particular attention will be devoted to rail infrastructure, where investments may cost over 10 bln PLN a year. Experiences of recent years show that there have been significant problems in this area.
Creating a unified Ministry of Infrastructure should eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic barriers in financing infrastructural investments. The appointment of Minister Bieńkowska as the Deputy Prime Minister shows that the Prime Minister attaches great importance to the way EU funds will be spent. Not only should these funds stimulate short-term economic growth - they should also have an impact on the long-term modernization of the foundations of Polish economy.
Maciej Grabowski, Minister of Environment
The appointment of Maciej Grabowski, Deputy Secretary of State in the Ministry of Finance responsible for the tax system as the Minister of Environment is an original and interesting idea. The goal of the nomination is original as well – accelerating the search for shale gas and the commencement of mining.
In the Ministry of Finance Maciej Grabowski was responsible for the preparation of an act on hydrocarbon taxation, so he is well aware of the nature of the branch with which he will now cooperate on exploring and mining unconventional hydrocarbons. He arrives at the ministry at a time when the argument between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Treasury over the second batch of shale gas regulations (amendments to the geological and mining laws) has led to a curious situation – proceeding to drafts of the same acts before the Council of Ministers. No wonder that in the face of legal uncertainty and bureaucratic disagreements investors have been less active. In 2013, the number of drills – even in a more optimistic scenario – will be lower than in 2012. Fracking has only been concluded on 3 of 12 finished drills. Last year, fracking was done on 11 of 24 drills.
An impulse accelerating the search for shale gas is needed. Investors need a stable and clear framework for their activities. Until gas flows which guarantee the profitability of commercial mining are achieved, their activity will be restricted to spending money.
Even though we have to keep the key importance of shale gas mining in mind, we cannot disregard other challenges. The issue of gas is also connected to the EU climate policy, which generates significant costs for the economy and presents a threat to the Polish extractive industry – particularly mining. We should continue to strongly oppose unified solutions for all EU members states, as such solutions are removed from the local conditions in particular countries.
Another challenge for the new Minister of Environment will be the so-called ‘waste revolution’, which despite theoretically being implemented, could cause many problems in practice. Warsaw has not yet implemented the system, although it has been in force since July. However, the example of the biggest city in Poland deflect our attention from the real problem – the question of whether the new system will guaranteed the appropriate level of recycling required by the EU.
The Ministry of Environment is not among those which attract the most media attention. Meanwhile, it is responsible for issues of key importance as far as the competitiveness of Polish economy is concerned. Minister Maciej Grabowski has thus far been known for his openness to dialog and cooperation with entrepreneurs. I hope that he will continue these admirable practices in his new position. In the case of shale gas and opposing the costly EU climate policy, Minister Grabowski can count on our support.
Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, Minister of National Education
The new minister faces many challenges, among others connected to the difficult demographic situation, questionable quality of education and its removal from the demands of the labor markets, as well as school financing and teacher salaries. Minister Kluzik-Rostkowska should also pay attention to the vocational education reform, which commenced a year ago. Creating a dual system inspired by German experiences in this field will surely demand further changes.
The effectiveness of Joanna Kluzik-Rotkowska’s policy will depend to a significant extent on the sound spending of 3.1 bln euro from the European funds within the new Knowledge, Education, Development Operational Program, the successor of the Human Capital Operational Program in the next financial perspective.
Kluzik-Rostkowska proved her political skills with her significant contribution to popularizing access to preschools. This issue is regarded as one of the fundamental elements, not only of pro-family policies, but also of the equalization of opportunities for children with diverse backgrounds and improving the employment rate among Polish parents – particularly among mothers.
The people are a particularly valuable capital for Polish economy – which makes the Minister’s role and her engagement in improving the quality of Polish education all the more significant. In order to maintain the competitiveness of our employees in a dynamically changing socioeconomic situation, elaborating effective life-long learning models is particularly important, especially in the case of older employees. In this field we should look for solutions which will enable us to avoid the dangers of excessive and pointless diploma collecting. The aim is to reasonably improve skills, serving both career and personal development and in a broader perspective – the improvement of the competitiveness of Polish economy.
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, Minister of Science and Higher Education
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska’s experience gives us hope that rational investment in research and development will be among her priorities. Her excellent understanding of the scientific environment should contribute to a keen awareness of the obstacles which hinder Poland’s innovativeness and in turn to more effective implementation of appropriate solutions to the problems they present.
In the EU financial perspective for 2014-2020, the Innovative Economy Operational Program will be substituted by Intelligent Development. The translation of scientific achievements to their practical use for the benefit of the economy will be aided by 7.6 bln euro from EU funds.
The new minister will be tasked with supporting Polish scientists and entrepreneurs, so that they may develop their cooperation for the benefit of the Polish economy and successfully commercialize the results of research and development. Polish know-how should be popularized not only domestically and in Europe, but globally as well. Our extractive industry – coals and shale gas mining - has a big potential in this regard. Developing technology for mining and utilizing hydrocarbons is particularly important for Polish science and Poland’s energetic security. Thus, Minister Kolarska-Bobińska is the right person in the right place.
Mateusz Szczurek, Minister of Finance
The Employers of Poland positively assess this nomination, but we expect something more than simple, passive administration of public finances.
Mateusz Szczurek’s extensive experience as an economist should allow him to effectively manage public finances at a time when Poland’s dependence on foreign investors on the debt market is increasing – among others as a result of restricting the role of OFE.
The Polish public finance management system remains an anachronism and entrepreneurs have more and more justified reasons to complain about the tax authorities' increasing represiveness. The results of the Minister’s mission will be decided by whether he decides to continue his predecessor’s policies. These policies were distinguished by looking for possibilities for increasing budget income at all costs, without increasing nominal tax. This meant introducing draconian tax regulations which have suffocated the development of Polish entrepreneurship. If this does not change, substituting Mateusz Szczurek for Jacek Rostowski will have to be seen as a move motivated mostly by concern with the governments image in the media.
Mateusz Szczurek starts his work at a moment when the public finances sector is in a relatively bad condition. The 2013 budget collapse means that a significant part of consolidation efforts have been wasted and the deficit calculated according to the EU methodology returned to the very high level of 4.8% GDP. Continuing a loose fiscal policy is very risky in the current situation. However, due to the start of the election cycle, the government will not be willing to introduce significant savings. Time will tell how the new Minister copes with this challenge.
Rafał Trzaskowski, Minister of Administration and Digitalization
The appointment of the Member of the European Parliament as the Minister of Administration and Digitalization is a good decision.
Experience gained in the European Parliament, working on issues such as protection of personally identifiable information, access to public information and cloud computing, will help the new Minister develop Polish entrepreneurship.
His in-depth understanding of these issues will undoubtedly help him develop the economy with the aid of information innovations, which are key for areas such as transport, energy, healthcare, labor market and electronic trade.
It would be advisable, if the Ministry’s main goals included internet freedoms as an extension of fundamental civil liberties. The new Minister should quickly get accustomed to his new role, where he will act according to the principle of respecting the rights of citizens and entrepreneurs.
Andrzej Malinowski Ph.D.
President of the Employers of Poland
This article is also available in Polish at http://www.pracodawcyrp.pl/aktualnosci/art,1272,prezydent-pracodawcow-rp-andrzej-malinowski-ocenia-zmiany-w-rzadzie.html