Donald Tusk says that current government policies will lead to a “drama” for Poland and that this could be stopped with an opposition win in the Presidential election.
Donald Tusk announced last Tuesday that he wasn’t going to stand in the Presidential election because of being associated with unpopular decisions. In an interview published in Saturday’s “Gazeta Wyborcza”, he criticises the current Law and Justice (PiS) government for pursuing a populist mix of left-wing and right-wing policies that he feels will lead the country into crisis.
The President of the European Council and former Polish PM said that finding a candidate who could win the Presidential election should be the primary objective of the opposition. This is because, according to Mr Tusk, “the crisis which has been caused by the PiS government is of such magnitude that everything must be done to avoid allowing that party to spend the next four years undermining the rule of law”.
Donald Tusk attacked the present government for pursuing an ‘irresponsible financial policy”. He called it “South American - a combination of what is popular and attractive in the policies of both the left and the right”. This, he says “must end in a dramatic manner”.
Mr Tusk criticized the way the migration crisis was handled by some leaders in Europe. He said that some ignored security while others ignored humanity. But he singled out Viktor Orban and Jarosław Kaczyński for criticism over the language they used in their opposition to the EU’s reallocation of refugees policy.
But he was also highly critical of the reallocation policy itself. He felt it was rightly seen as an attempt to avoid the need to improve the security of EU borders. His view was that “those who want to help refugees would not be held responsible for terrorism, but equally those who want borders protected should not automatically be called xenophobic and fascist.”
Mr Tusk seems to have gone back to the criticism that was made of the present government back in 2015 when it launched its redistributive programme of social transfers. The criticism was that it would ruin the public finances leading to higher borrowing or higher taxes.
But it has not turned out that way. The ratio of public debt to GDP has actually fallen, and budget deficit has also been falling. The level of income tax has actually been reduced. This is because of a mix of high economic growth and the tightening up of the tax system.
It is therefore hard to label the present government as fiscally irresponsible. Indeed, the main opposition party that Mr Tusk used to lead (Civic Platform) promised higher social spending at October’s general election.
Mr Tusk is critical of the rhetoric of the PiS leader on immigration. But he conveniently left out the fact that Poland is the host to the highest number of migrants coming into an EU country in the past year. He also forgot to mention that Poland, under the present government, has more than doubled its aid funding, especially to post-conflict regions such as Syria.
There is a genuine debate to be had about the level of social spending and judicial reform. But visions of Poland being another Venezuela are simply hyperbolic. They also betray an economic mindset fashioned in the neo-liberal 1980s and 1990s. Mr Kaczyński is reputed to have read Piketty. Maybe Mr Tusk should do likewise.