Army contracts, such as the one for the acquisition of helicopters, have to take the economic interests of the country into account – this is the basic conclusion from a debate at the offices of the press company Polskapresse, attended by representatives of Employers of Poland.
– If the helicopter contract does not go to Polish producers, the economy will lose a total of 1.5 bln PLN by 2030. 8 000 jobs could also be lost – lists Zbigniew Pastuszak, Dean of the Faculty of Economy at the Maria Skłodowska-Curie University in Lublin. This is one of the first analyses of the possible results of the recent decision to only allow helicopters built by the French company Airbus Helicopters to participate in tests, though it does not even have a factory in Poland. Products of the same quality from factories in Świdnik (world-class American helicopter Blackhawk) and in Mielec (the equally good English-Italian Augusta Westland) were rejected before. The government only explained that the offers did not meet formal criteria without disclosing any details.
– In other countries, rejecting domestic companies in such a situation would be unthinkable. When it comes to contracts of such importance, most European countries are openly protectionist and take the alter impact of the decision on the economy into consideration – confirms Janusz Steinhoff. His view on the government’s decision is brief: – I am very critical. This is a capital that should have been put on the domestic market – he believes.
Andrzej Malinowski, President of Employers of Poland, underlines the fact that the recently passed Polish defense policy explicitly mentions an arms program that takes the country’s economic interests into consideration. Meanwhile…
– The contract is apparently subject to full counterintelligence control. Has anybody – considering the declarations made by the French that they will assembled the helicopters in Łódź – noticed that French trade unions will not let that happen? Is the government aware that this is a potentially dangerous signal for foreign companies who want to invest in our country? – he emphasizes.
It turns out that first companies were attracted to Świdnik and Mielec and then when the first important contract comes, they are rejected. – How can we encourage other to but there if we do not do that ourselves? – this is an objection shared by all participants in the discussion.
– Other countries take care of their own interests first – stresses Andrzej Malinowski.
How has that worked out when it comes to helicopter acquisition? Krzysztof Krystowski, Chairman of PZL Świdnik, Vicepresident of Employer of Poland, points out that the defense industry generates the most innovation, although this was completely ignored in the procedure. – One PLN spent on defense translates to a further four to twenty in innovation – he says. Nobody has to be convinced how stimulating and Important it is for the whole economy.
Participants agree: the decision is particularly hard to understand as Poland has not only products of the required quality, but also an already existing base for production. – When buying equipment abroad, we choose not to transfer technology, which is a serious mistake – assesses Łukasz Kister, defense expert at Collegium Civitas.
The helicopter contract is important, but it is not the only element of the army modernization program which is to be conducted in the coming years. In the next decade, Poland intends to spend ca. 130 bln PN on it. Thus, it is crucial that the same mistake is not repeated. Participants also hope that the decision regarding the helicopter contract will be changed and that the interests of Polish industry will be taken into consideration.