Sunday, 25 March 2012

When did I lose track of everything?

The recent business trip to Poznań (first one in over a year with any spare time to go out and sightsee) has made me realise I had ceased to keep up with current affairs. But these were not just the three days without access to computer and not watching TV (enjoying nightlife in the evenings), when ruling coalition was rowing over pensions and a wacky chap in France stage a massacre in a Jewish school, but a much longer period of time, starting in the autumn last year… Fancy a catch-up?

In October 2011 the parliamentary election was won, for the second time in a row, by Platforma Obywatelska, Donald Tusk was re-sworn in as prime minister, ruling coalition stayed in place in the same shape as it had wielded power before the election. Only make-up of the government was slightly reshuffled, with some controversial appointments (conservative non-lawyer Jarosław Gowin as justice minister, charming Joanna Mucha as sport minister and wet-behind-ears Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and labour and welfare minister). And once the danger of relapsing IV RP was fended off and prospects of four years of mediocre rule consisting in doing excellent PR stunts and holding on to cushy stools emerged, someone has lost their common sense. Guys in power have grown complacent and began to think if the nation have elected them for the second time, they have a mandate to do anything and can go unpunished. Ordinary people have realised this has gone too far and next mistakes made by the government cannot be forgiven.

2012 brought three significant slip-ups of the PO-led government…

1. The medicine reimbursement law, prepared in the previous term by the health ministry run by Ewa Kopacz turned out to trigger backlash from angry patients. The reform, aimed at bringing some order into rules of subsidising purchase of medicines and cutting reimbursement expenses, led to an even bigger chaos, chiefly when doctors were obliged to check whether a patient was entitled to buy a subsidised medicine.

2. The ACTA dispute – this one has wound me up, although I have to admit until now I have not drilled down deep into the new regulations. Would I be personally affected by ACTA? Would I have to register my blog which I try to keep anonymous? Would I be convicted for downloading films of music (not to mention plenty for books that would set be back hundreds of zlotys)? Does ACTA really square with current Polish law? Well, I hold it dear I can run PES and withhold my identity (known for many, but not for the public), as my current employer and any potential employers do not know nothing about my activity and I can write whatever inconvenient stuff I want, including harsh criticism of misconduct of the industry I work for (the longer I work there and the deeper I dive into it, the bigger the scale of depravity I see is). And the rest? OK, from time to time I go to a cinema, but I watch most newly released films at home, all new music albums I want to listed to come from the Internet. And the books – in my life I’ve downloaded several excellent English-language books on economics and banking, for each I would have had to fork out between 50 and 100 US dollars… They all boosted by knowledge, but was it at somebody’s expense? Consider two cases: either somebody spends money to go to a cinema or to buy a book and is worse-off or they do not watch a film or read a book at all. In the former case an intellectual owner of a good is better-off, in the latter not. The issue of web piracy should be considered in two separate issues then. Firstly it is about economic rationality – if someone can have something which costs money for free, it is rational to take steps to get it for free. Secondly – when someone cannot afford to have access to culture and knowledge in any other way than by the Internet, crackdown on contents violating copyrights is a tragedy. Personally I perceive ACTA, not because the initiative has cropped up, but by dint of the back-door way of passing it, as a conspiracy of the rich against the poor and another attempt to preserve and deepen the gulf between those who have and those who are deprived… PS. By doing what I described I do not break the Polish law, which allows to copy or download goods marked as intellectual purposes for one’s private use. I do not distribute anything further, do not share it and do not draw any financial benefits from this. May it stay so…
The government, after numerous demonstrations staged in the middle of the cold snap, succumbed to the protesters and backed out of ACTA ratifications, thus spiting the lobbyists…

3. Raising retirement age to 67 for both women and men. Currently woman in Poland are allowed to retire at the age of 60, men when they knock 65. In practice on average a Pole pensions off at the age of 57, much earlier than other nations in the EU. Predictably, an attempt do adjust legislation to unremitting demographic trends triggered another hostile reaction from the PO’s coalitional partner and most oppositional parties, from the trade unions and ordinary citizens, scared with the prospect of having to work until the age of 67. Future of the reform is still not settled. Ruch Palikota is ready to back the reform, while PO is ready to strike a one-off deal with the liberal-leftist party. No one can foretell, whether the dispute over the pension deal would split the PO-PSL coalition and whether this will end up with early elections…

And me? I don’t care…
1. I’m indifferent to falling support for Platforma. I voted for it, not regret it, as there was no alternative, but at this time there is no one I could vote for. Rule of off-their-head people, whose leader is Jarosław Kaczyński do not scare me somehow, although this surely not what I want for Poland. My mindset reflects what happens in minds of many Poles for who politics is a game played somewhere beyond the small world or their problems and joys.
2. ACTA – well, comes this into effect, I will have to come to terms with it and comply. But odds that it happens, in the light of international resistance to the new law, are shrinking.
3. Well, I have long been mentally prepared to work until the age of 67 or longer, I am not one of the people attracted by the possibility of retiring early, so why should I care…

Besides, financial markets have gone bonkers, I totally do not understand what drives prices then, so I’m trying to stay out of the market and reiterate my prediction of a tsunami on the markets in the second quarter of 2012… Time will tell…

1 comment:

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