Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 in retrospect

Last days of the year, a short, idle period between Christmas and New Year’s Day (or even Epiphany). Days, when world nearly comes into a standstill; days when slower pace of life provokes one to look back into the passing year and (maybe more often) to make resolutions for the coming year. Customarily, we wish one another that the coming year is better than the passing and usually we think it would not take that much to make the wish come true. In fact, as a matter of principle, we under-appreciate positive developments from the past and over-estimate importance of those negative. Fair assessment of what we have lived through is generally hindered by our selective memories. Actually, 2015 was a year of ups and downs for me, yet as it comes to an end, positive outlook for 2016 brightens me up ;-)

The ups and downs pertain mostly to private life. I have (and dare to claim) successfully tried to temper the magnitude of both ups and downs, with lifting myself from being closer to the bottom being a far bigger challenge. I have made a tremendous work to get hold of myself from the “post-CFA blues” and break away from the life focused on merely getting by. This took me three summer months, the months, truth be told, I effectively wasted, genuinely doing nothing than carrying on. I functioned yet not lived. Then came the turning point. I signed up for dance classes (and continue trainings, though I sometimes have to bend over backwards not to stay overtime in the office) and want to develop this pastime activity in 2016. I also find no excuses for socialising, whatever opportunity comes up and no matter how tired or reluctant to meet people (both states sometimes inevitable in the daily grind) I am, I grab it. A human becomes a human only among humans, that is why interacting with people (in most situations) brings out positive energy in us. This all has instilled more self-confidence in me. You, as some of my friends, would probably argue, I had not needed my self-confidence to be boosted. This is kind of misleading, since what you see outside does not need to reflect what goes on inside.

In terms of work, I started off into 2015 with serious doubts whether changing a job had been a good move. With hindsight, I wrote that post shortly before settling down in the New Factory. First six months in the new company are about finding your ways around it, the next half-year period is for laying foundations of your position in the company, after one year, you begin to thrive and your credentials get reinforced. This timeline reflects my experiences from both The Employer and The New Factory. As of November I was relocated and assigned more duties and ended up working 60+ hours per week. The workload somewhat eased in early December (meaning I spent weekends without the company computer), but for instance I had to spend the whole evening on 23 December, well into the Christmas Eve, “saving the day” and with swear words flowing from my mouth (how foul-mouthed I have become over 2015). The blend of time pressure, stress and encroaching on private life my job offers me sometimes makes me want to literally yell. More and more often I wonder where this whole craze is leading me and what the benefit and the sense for me in it is. A friend to whom I talked on Wednesday (taking a break from “saving the day”) told me I am at the moment of deciding whether I make do with what I have (and rest on laurels with what I have achieved so far) and should ease up or I want to aim higher and carry on shining bright and patiently waiting to reap what I am sowing. The conclusion is basically wise and up-to-the-point, but the other question is who the reward comes to…

The noteworthy affair in 2015 was passing the third level of the exam and being awarded the Charter (along with other 78 other professionals from Poland who earned the Charter in 2015). To make a sincere confession, self-pride is mixed with regret. The fortnight before the exam was a nightmare. I got up every single day wanting to scream until my throat could not give any voice, wanting to burst into tears which could not flow from my eyes. And then, counting down days until 6 June, I fought battles not only against exam preparations, but also against my frail psyche. I did well on the exam (I consider it a miracle), but the price to pay was high. I am now a Charterholder and realise had I given up along the way, I would be angry with myself, the scenario worse than what I have gone through, since except for track record of roughly 1,000 hours spent on learning, I at least enjoy some kind of self-esteem. Against my own demons, I have carried the day.

The saddest moment of the year was my grandma’s departure in March. At the very beginning of the year we all knew it was unlikely should would celebrate her 90th birthday in November. The very passing away actually brought relief to us, since grandma was slowly dying for two weeks and her suffering lasted unbearably long.

In the last quarter of the year, I began looking for a flat. One day in January I will try to write more on this, but the search resembles now my effort to find a new job taken in November 2013. This was the moment I knew I was bound to do something unless I wanted to go bonkers or totally burn out with The Employer. I had in mind a hasty and quick job change only to break out of the endurable workplace did not make much sense. Also spending roughly an equivalent of one’s four-year after-tax salary (on a relatively illiquid asset) requires some care. With the job change the outcome was that in the sixth month of fruitless search, the offer from the New Factory came up and both the New Factory and I were committed within seven business days from the first contact. I guess same will happen about the flat, when an opportunity comes up.

And far in the background… We have witnessed a makeover of Polish political arena. We have the new president and the new government, with outright majority of one party in the parliament, making extensive use of unfettered hold of power. Millions of Poles wholeheartedly support the radical agenda (and steps) of the new government, millions of Poles silently or outspokenly object it. I am more and more tempted join people who take to the streets and get involved in the politics (although for the same reasons why I conceal my identity as a blogger, I should hold back). 2016 will be a year full of twists of actions in the politics. I doubt it brings early election. PiS will not repeat the mistake from 2007 when they thought the early termination of parliament term and brought forward election would reinforce their rule. Now, without the burden of any coalitional partner, they are likely to wield power until 2019. Unless the civic discontent, brought about by all-out assault on democratic institutions and going back on pre-election promises, gets so intense that it overthrows the PiS government. But even if so, what then?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Angel's angle

Prompted myself to watch again “Wings of Desire”. Not just to behold Berlin divided by the wall, mere three years before it was crumbled. Not just to encounter the atmosphere crafted by Wim Wenders in his magnificent films. I have revisited the film to explore concept of angels and the whys and wherefores of their “presence” on earth.

An angel is invisible. I presume each of us has at least once dreamt of being invisible to somebody. What in some situations is a blessing, in the long run is a curse. Invisibility which allows you to be an unnoticed bystander who observes course of people’s lives means no human being pays attention to you, nobody talks to you, nobody touches to you, nobody interacts with you. As a result the only creatures you can have relationships with are fellow angels; in the eternal perspective no one but other lonesome companions.

An angel has insight into humans’ feelings. An angel knows what they think about, who they love, who they hate, what problems they cope with, what pleases them and what they fear. An angel knows all but an angel can do nothing about to relieve humans’ pains. An angel does not have power to solve people’s problems, cannot abandon their invisibility for a moment to talk to a human or to hug them. And after all, angels are familiar with human feelings only because they observe them, but not out of their own experience. They witness sadness of a bereaved human but they do not know how it feels like, because nobody they loved has even passed away. They witness sorrow of a lovelorn human, but they do not know how it feels like, since no one has even turned away their love. They witness incurably ill humans, but they have never gone down with any disease. They witness misery of a family who cannot make ends meet, but since they have never had to do with money and have never needed it, they do not know how being short of money feels like. An angel does not even know what the pain is, they have never felt it.

No wonder one of the angels staring at the fate of West Berlin’s residents one day, upon falling in love with a woman, decides to give up on all the traits of angelness he grows uncomfortable of and becomes a mortal human.

Thus I guess the purport of the film is that genuine feelings, including those most bitter, are the essence of humanity. Learning how to cope with the suffering teaches us how to handle love. Without experiencing the former you cannot appreciate the latter. Without feelings and without problems the life is empty. Do not dream of trouble-free, easy life. It is a trap! Trouble-free, easy life is not for humans!

So feelings are what matters the most. Do not suppress them, give vent to them, share them with fellow humans. And feelings drive emotions; both positive and negative. If we are affected by emotions, we are humans. And finally, by depriving themselves of emotions, humans turn themselves into robots, goal-oriented creatures, repeating tasks to survive, without seeking the essence of their humanity. As I grow older, day after day I am more and more appreciative of positive impulses and search for them to draw pleasure. I chase them and grab them whenever they are not out of reach. I hesitate many times, since not infrequently price to pay for the positive vibes might be too high. As I have been growing older, life has been teaching me, it does not need to be wise to reach the top one day and slide to the bottom the other day. Beware of that and do not get high at the expense of other people.

I wish and peaceful Christmas to all my readers!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Market update

Customarily, December on financial markets is hardly ever a season of bloodshed. Either everyone is celebrating, trading volumes are thin and markets are placid or fund managers are make use of shallow market to boost portfolio valuations before year-end. This year Santa Claus rally, if it is witnessed at all, will be at best considered a revival after the recent turbulent weeks.

The most frequently benchmark used for the Polish stock market its is large-cap index, WIG20, composed of twenty biggest, in terms of the market value, publicly traded companies in Poland. The index, with its historical high of more than 3,900 points recorded in October 2007 and this decade’s high of more than 2,900 in April 2011, has seen a few months of dreadful performance. In early May this year WIG20 peaked at 2,558 points, while on F11 December’s market close it dropped to mere 1,757 points, so it declined by 31% over 7 months. Raw numbers in theory should not bear a false testimony, yet what underlies the numbers might be biased enough to prompt market data recipients to jump to conclusions.

So before we do this, three facts:
- as of 11 December 2015’s close, WIG20 components accounted for 27.6% of the whole stock market in Poland, in terms of market capitalisation,
- the index is dominated by two industries: financial sector (Alior Bank, Bank Zachodni WBK, mBank, Pekao S.A., PKO BP, PZU) and energy (Enea, Energa, PGE, Tauron),
- the index is a price index, i.e. takes into account only price movements, but fails to account for return from dividends, while the yield of the index in the long-run is close to risk-free return or slightly higher.

The first arguments persuades you to think of another, more representative benchmark for the Polish stock market, the second should tell you performance of two industries might substantially affect performance of the index.

And indeed, the shares of banks and the insurer have been falling for the recent months, as valuations discounted imposition of financial sector tax, higher bank guarantee fund contributions as well as anticipated, yet for a while put back, conversion of FX-denominated loans unfavourable for banks.

Shares of energy producers plummeted because of their planned involvement in the bail-out of coal mining, extensive CAPEX needs, both factors trimming down their dividend payout capacity.

Shares of banks dropped by 30% since May 2015, shares of utilities declined by 40% since May 2015. Besides, two vital components of the index are KGHM, punched by falling copper and silver prices (not well offset by stronger USD) and Bogdanka, thumped by falling hard coal prices. No wonder then even if other 8 companies perform decently (difficult, if the market is perceived as homogenous by foreign investors), the index could not fare well…

The better representative of the broader market is WIG. While WIG20 retracted to levels last seen in April 2009, during post-crisis rally, WIG, a total-return index (takes into account dividend income), is two times higher than in February 2009, but fell by 23% from its peak in May 2015, meaning the Warsaw Stock Exchange has officially entered the bear market.

A justified question is whether the factors depressing Polish equities are of local or global nature. If you look at performance of S&P 500, no pattern similar to what has observed in Poland can be discerned.

The same if you peek at DAX30. Both Wall Street and Frankfurt contracted at the news of faltering Chinese economy, but both are still in bull market.

If the stock exchange predicts troubles in the future, it begins to do when the troubles emerge on the horizon and they did so in May 2015, when lots of market participants realised PO was bound to lose the parliamentary election and PiS, as they got hold of power, would tamper with the economy. Policies pursued by PO were also to blame, as they also had put forward a draft of FX-denominated mortgages conversion and they set off to exploit energy companies to rescue insolvent coal mines.

With hindsight I am grateful to the New Factory for imposing stringent trading restrictions on me which have put me off trading and prompted to terminate my brokerage account. Had the limitations not been in place, I would have several times attempted to catch the falling knife. With hindsight, I see I would have been worse off.

Moving away from Poland… Prices of Brent Oil (traded in London), after bottoming out early this year, have been falling since early summer, but recently they tumbled, best evidenced by the 9% drop within the last week. Excess of oil supply is likely to persist, extraction is unlikely to be cut down by OPEC members, while macroeconomic environment remains shaky. All these factors combined ward off the scenario of crude oil prices drifting to where they were before November 2014.

And a quick glance at the copper. Quotations of the commodity have been in the downward trend for nearly five years and had a tremendous impact on market price of KGHM shares (in early 2013 it trade above 190 PLN per share, today mere 61 PLN would buy such security). Now the Polish copper behemoth is nearing the verge of breaking even, while the promises of lifting the copper tax, made by PiS ahead of the election, are up in the air.

The Polish currency, at least in comparison with our stock market, is holding up relatively well. EUR/PLN pair, as dull as ditchwater over the last three years, has climbed towards 4.40 and forges ahead to break out from the range within which it stayed for too long.

USD/PLN, far more volatile than EUR/PLN, began its ascent in 3Q2014 and in early December 2015 crossed the level of 4.00. It deserves to be stressed however, that the driver of the incline is on the USD side of the pair. The American currency is sent up by buoyant US economy, dwindling commodity prices (negative correlation) and expected interest rate hike (FED meeting due in the coming week).

Unfortunately, I am not a future-teller and even if I were, I would not dare to advise you how to reap profits from what is happening on the markets. Given high expenditures in the offing, I am keeping all my savings at banks. But even with longer investment horizon, I would not bet on stock market recovery. Fundamentally the Polish economy is holding strong, but the extent to which it can be spoilt by zipperheads behind the wheel is unknown. By analogy, in first half of 2008 everyone thought given good economic situation, the bear market should have drawn to a close and stock valuations were bound for correction. Over the next months they fell by some 50%. What I am rather confident is that if WIG slides into 30,000 points (I doubt this is probable), equity valuations will be attractive in long-term perspective.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sumienie mam czyste

I am proud on 24 May 2015 I voted for Mr Komorowski. Although my opinion on his (mediocre) presidency in the last months before his electoral defeat was not particularly high, with hindsight I have no doubt casting a vote for him was the best I could do then. Had Mr Komorowski been re-elected, he would have been a precious safety valve, an authentic guard of constitution and stumbling block for reckless economic decisions passed by PiS-dominated parliament. Today, when executive and legislative powers are wielded by nominees of one party, counter-balance can be struck only by judiciary power (attempted to be undermined,)and by private media (public one will soon be brought to a heel by PiS)…

I was not fond of the late president, Mr Kaczyński. We were worlds apart, his views of Poland were usually far cry from mine, yet he had principles he would abide by. Honestly admitting, I did not like him, but respected him as a head of state. When Mr Duda was taking the office, I wished him well. After he reprieved Mr Kamiński (in advance, since the court has not passed a legally binding sentence) and nominated five judges of constitutional tribunal elected by PiS, before it was been ruled three of them had been elected by PO-PSL government in line with constitutional order, I have lost respect for Mr Duda, who is more dependent on Jarosław Kaczyński than Lech Kaczyński was. Servile president is not a good president.

I am proud on 25 October 2015 I voted for Nowoczesna. PO, the most numerous oppositional party is, predictably, falling apart, picking up the pieces after the electoral calamity and struggling to find a new leader, while Nowoczesna stands out in terms of standing up to the mess PiS government and deputies are making. Nowoczesna has emerged as the only firm and substantive critic of the government. Thumbs up guys. No wonder in the recent polls Nowoczesna is the runner-up in terms of support, with 20% of the surveyed declaring to support them. In the meantime support for PiS dropped to 32% and for PO to 19%. For both parties this is a well-deserved outflow of voters…

Within the first weeks of holding the entire power, hollowness of economic agenda of PiS is slowly coming to the light. Out of the blue, PiS passed a new amendment to Personal Income Tax Law, levying 70% tax on sky-high severance package of executives departing from state-owned enterprises. Given the absurdly-high level of golden parachutes, the initiative is commendable and I would support it. But the ignorant authors of the law have forgotten that majority of executive work under managerial contracts, which means they are sole proprietors hired to run companies and hence are payers of Corporate Income (flat) Tax. Thus the new tax rate will beyond all doubt to a tiny minority of executives; those working under managerial contracts will be able leverage on the loophole to dispute the tax charges. On the other hand, if the government decreases the CIT rate for small companies to 15%, all the executive will pay even lower taxes. Here comes a good example how PiS helps the poorest!

The 500+ programme, the flagship project of PiS to give 500 PLN allowance for every second and next (and for poorer families also for the first) child, also lays bare declarations of ready draft laws were lies. Until now it is unclear who will be eligible for the allowance, whether it will be treated as taxable income and how many documents parents will need to submit to file for the allowance. In the meantime, the Labour and Social Policy minister admitted the allowance will make some poor families worse off, since if they receive the allowance, they will not be eligible for welfare aid. In the meantime, one of PiS politicians appealed to well-off people not to apply for the allowance, stating if they did so, it would be ignoble… The chap appeals to the rich not to take money they will be eligible for. Jaw drops open! Is Mr Karczewski just incompetent, or is he discrediting himself?

Financial sector and large-space shop taxes are to be introduced early next year. As for now, I am holding back from assessing the effects, however I still believe ruthless banks and retail chains with foreign capital will get the blow, but will not be hit the worst.

Now I am in a quandary, weighing up whether it is worse when PiS tampers with economy or with democracy. With slightly dismantled democracy Poland can still economically prosper if it not ill-run. With unwise economic agenda Poland might follow the path of Greece, yet civic liberties will be intact. As an economist, facing the choice of lesser of two evils, I would sooner let PiS tamper with the democracy rather than meddle into teh economy.

Having written all those bitter words, I must not forget to remind there are millions of Poles who genuinely support PiS in their pursuit of “reinstating law and order”. If I told the recent events are against the will of the nation, I would depart from the truth. The government has a (weak, yet any) mandate to pursue the changes, millions of Poles were waiting for the change which looms bleak and dangerous for me. We also must remember PiS can boast of the biggest stalwart electorate, estimated at 30%.

Waiting for the course of things to unfold, I witness the growing anger at how the government and the president are making use of power. Plus when it turns out points of economic agenda either are hollow promises, or do more harm that good, people who have voted for PiS with hopes for generous spending, will turn their back on them. The scenario of early elections if most people get fed up with PiS government is not as likely as in 2007, since now PiS hold an outright majority in the parliament, but if things go bad enough, people will topple the government. Nevertheless, because for such scenario to come to a pass, too much would need to be spoilt and I do not wish bad on Poland, I hope it does not materialize.

Each month I will be trying to dedicate one post to PiS in power, times are dreadful, but interesting…

The political mess has not brought me down. Clement weather (+10C and sunshine) and the fact this is the first weekend since the beginning of November I spend without company computer lift my spirit.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


For sacrifice comes the reward. Early this week the New Factory took us to a SPA resort for a two-day rest (officially to discuss execution of strategy for 2015 and talk over strategy for 2016; a purpose justified by tax reasons), so instead of minding the shop, my colleagues and I enjoyed ourselves in a resort somewhere 200 kilometres from Warsaw.

This was my first trip to SPA in my life and given cost of such pleasure, the next one will also be paid by someone else ;-). The very massages and other relaxing treatments were for me, as a male, tedious. Lying back for more than an hour does not square with my notion of perfect leisure, which should involve some physical exercise. Anyway, apart from boring doing-nothing we could enjoy other facilities: outdoor cycling (debatable how much pleasure it gives when the temperature is near freezing), swimming pool, jacuzzi, etc.

The biggest drawback of the trip is that I could not cut myself off work as I would have loved to, but had to turn on computer four times during two days to push some stuff forward. Besides, a stay in SPA is good for a weekend rest, but not for a week or two.

Plus even for a well-off banker the price of such enjoyment is steep. A week-long stay for a couple would set you back five thousand zlotys, money which could buy you decent holidaying several thousand kilometres from Poland, not in a four-star resort at the back of beyond. Nevertheless, the facility seems to be targeted at corporations with generous integration budgets and private individuals with lots of dough to throw about. To my surprise, the only guests apart from us, corpo-folks, were some Russians (I’d thought economic misery out there would lead to dramatic drop in Russian tourists visiting Poland). The next day folks from a renowned pharmaceutical company were due to show up. One could argue, whether spending on average 800 PLN per person for such trip is the most reasonable way of managing a company’s profit and loss account, yet since if the integration budget is not used in one year, next year it is be reduced, temptation to spend someone else’s money is strong…

On our way back we popped over to a museum of Mazovian countryside in Sierpc. Well-maintained, yet on late-November weekday desolated. A guide showed us around large and well-groomed sites. This is the essence of Mazovian landscape. One would love to submerge in this stillness, yet Warsaw inescapably beckons…

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Czy to jest k… życie?

Never wanted to work at big four and the likes.

Never been attracted nor impressed by pace and style of work those firms stand for.

Never envied friends who had pursued their careers there, despite their higher earnings.

But whenever I heard stories of people knocking off at midnight or spending weekends in the office or in front of their company laptops, I wondered what had prompted them to make such career choices and why (most of them) had not given up on them. There are three reasons that come to my mind when you ask me to put across why somebody bends over backwards and sacrifices their best years to a wicked corporation…

Firstly, money. Full stop.

Secondly, it is the stepping stone. You sacrifice some three years which begin around the time you graduate and at the age of, say, 26 or 27, you are a valuable employee who can pick and choose from decent, rather nine-to-five jobs with a monthly basic five-digit pre-tax salary.

Thirdly, whatever turns you on. I see there are people who are in their element when overloaded with work, struggling to meet deadlines, racing for bonuses with fellow workmates and genuinely draw pleasure from toiling away.

In Polish banking, work style does not resemble neither the big four torment, nor the investment banking style characteristic for the City or Wall Street. An ordinary folk, if they are to imagine a bank employee, they will most probably see someone sitting in a bank branch and foisting cash loans or mortgages or deposits or other lousy “products” on benighted clients. Those people, working in retail branches, making up majority of banking sector employees in Poland are poorly paid, fall victims to mobbing and are forced to meet exorbitant sales targets. No wonder staff turnover in branches is high.

Besides, there is a world in between the City and the branches. These are head office of banks registered in Poland. Work there does not resemble what goes on in the City, yet salaries also are far lower. Bankers in Poland generally do not work 70 hours per week, but their bonuses will not buy them flats in Warsaw. Albeit, it has to be noted, in legendary late 1990s and before 2005, when property prices were reasonable and banking sector in Poland had its best years in terms of profits, decent annual bonuses of senior specialists or managers were high enough to buy a small flat. Years from 2006 to 2008 were the three last years when sky-high bonuses were witnessed. Unfortunately, since property prices skyrocketed, purchasing power of bonuses drastically dwindled. Then Lehman Brothers went into the wall and banks across the world, in order to shield their profitability, began to rip off clients even more and cut costs internally, which involved nothing else but cutbacks.

Cost restructuring and employment restructuring have been on-going processes for seven years now and though more work needs to be done to keep banks expanding, fewer people do this and the trend cannot be attributed to technological progress, since we are here talking about highly-qualified staff whose work might not be replaced by computers.

The New Factory is also in the state of flux. There have been some redeployments here and there inside the organisation, as a result of which I got transferred to another team, with exactly the same duties and along with another person I had to take over duties of someone who now is attempting to pursue career outside the New Factory. Needless to say, the transfer (effective as of 1 November 2015) was communicated to me as appreciation of my excellent work and proof of trust senior managers put in me.

The actual outcome is that I spend around ten hours a day at work, my pace of work is frenetic enough to pose excessive risk of mistakes and not allowing me to adhere to principles of diligence. Plus I was falling behind with work, so in order to catch up and meet all deadline, I ended up with the company notebook at home over the weekends. In spent most of the weekend two weeks ago working and nearly the whole Saturday a week ago. Most stuff I had to deal with got finalized this week, but I had lots of small overdue issues to carry through, so I got immediately fixed up with VPN, allowing me to have access to company mailbox and network resources everywhere where I have access to the Internet. The new handcuffs are of course another accolade…

The only question is how long can one carry on like this. Out of 22 days which have passed in November, I had three when I was completely off work. Forgetting about work and turning off one’s mind in such circumstances is difficult. To boot, the excessive involvement in workplace goings-on appears compulsive. Over five years spent in banking I have seen several workaholics, have always looked at them with disdain, yet today I see myself growing akin to them, what fills me with slight dread.

How long then? I will not bother to answer, but I will dare to ask another question – what is the price to pay?

Firstly, it is the stress. I tend to put a bold face and always prove to deliver what I am expected. The outside effect is (as I am told) impressive, but the inside cost is felt by me only. Coping with time pressure and massive amount of information to process cause brain to work on high revolutions, something that is sustainable only for a short period. Carrying on like this leads to side effects such as chronic fatigue or problems with concentration.

Secondly, it is less time for private issues. On Thursdays I have set a general rule to knock off at 5 p.m. to make it to the dance class. I gave up on the last one, but it was only because the new boss had invited my team to an eatery and turning down the proposal would have been impolite. Besides, as some friends would convince me, the worse you have it at work, the more you feel tempted to seek entertainment outside it, provided you are not totally drained of energy. Plus I am glad this s**t has fallen on me now, not a year ago. I was in the luck not to be overloaded with work while on the home straight to earn the Charter.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Good God, under starry skies we are lost

11 September 2001, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania

And a peaceful decade thereafter? Is my memory that short or had there been no spectacular terrorist attack in Europe since then until last Friday? Until I went to bed on Friday around half past nine p.m., no news from the radio turned on had reached me. The tidings I woke up to yesterday were at first more horrible than when the whole picture of the massacre sank in.

In terms of scale and atrocity of the attacks in Paris compare to acts of violence committed in Madrid and London, but one difference deserves to be noted. In Paris victims were folks who sought entertainment, while in Madrid and in London the fatalities and the wounded were public transport passengers. As I attempt to put the attacks into psychological perspective, I wonder whether who terrorist target to kill, instils more or less fear into the society. Commuting to work or school or moving around the city is one of down-to-earth, repetitive everyday activities one cannot avoid. Going to a concert hall or sitting about outside cafeteria is what one associates with pleasure, breaking away from and forgetting for a moment about the daily grind. Would you suffer more if you realised you could be murdered by terrorist on your way to work or when you go out to relax?

When it comes to pure politics, the attacks will quite likely stoke up anti-migrant sentiments across Europe and send support for xenophobic right-wing lunatics on the rise. Those urging to close borders and stem the uncontrolled flow of migrants will not necessarily become more audible, but more will listen to them. A cool-headed analyst would remind you the 9/11, Madrid and London attacks were carried out well in advance of wave of migrants at the gates of Europe. Countries becoming targets of terrorists have one thing in common – they have got involved into the war against terrorism.

A noteworthy question which naturally comes up in such circumstances is how to crack down on ISIS, the vengeful and vindictive enemy. The simplest solution which comes to mind is dropping a nuclear bomb on the territories of Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS. Simple solutions, however, tend to be silly and do more harm than good. The example above has two primary drawbacks: firstly, nuclear bombing would involve deaths of thousands of innocent civilians (not yet killed or driven out by the ISIS soldiers from their homes), secondly it would trigger brutal retaliation, conceivably even a doomsday. ISIS is not confined to territories it controls but has its envoys spread far and wide across the world and ready to hit no matter how high the price to pay would be. The most reasonable way to combat ISIS would be, in my opinion, to cut them off money they rely on to come by. Let’s face it. ISIS lacks natural resources it could sell, it also does not produce anything, it can only destroy, but in order to get hold of the weapons and keep control over its territory it needs financial resources from the outside. The only question is who their sponsors are and what their reasons behind supporting ISIS are.

Is it (yet another) the end of the world as we know it? After a much more dazzling 9/11 attacks the world looks broadly the same as before them. The main observable difference are the meticulous security controls on the airports, for many passengers being a pain in the arse and oddly enough not abided by in many less civilised airports, as evidenced by the recent tragedy in Egipt.

The world needs to face several challenges with terrorisms coming to the fore as one of the core perils to the Western civilisation in the 21st century. We need to live with it and carry on, otherwise terrorists will win the most important war, the psychological one. I remember well how may parents were scared in March 2004 (it was during my first school year of commutes to Warsaw), when trains exploded in Madrid and many feared that trains of Warsaw underground could also be attacked, since Poland had sent its army to Iraq and Afghanistan… There’s no other way than coming to terms with a risk of being killed by a terrorist, which is anyway probably lower than the chance of being killed in a traffic accident.

Dedicated a few hours of the weekend to the New Employer, with nothing in return. More reflections on this next week…

Sunday, 8 November 2015

OFE – the epilogue

The ruling is anything but a bolt from the blue, if sound judgement and common sense are in use. Public character of assets accumulated by the pension fund has been reiterated many times (including Supreme Court ruling in 2008), moreover a simple logic leads to you the conclusion that by no means Poles’ “savings” in individual accounts allocated to their names have never belonged to them.

Experts point at potential consequences of the verdict. Firstly, it given green light to reckless politicians to reach out for the assets remaining in pension funds to finance their otherwise undeliverable promises. When government bonds were cancelled, I did support the move of PO government which finally eliminated hollow circulation of money, but this time other assets are at stake. Pension funds hold now nearly only shares of Polish public companies, in many of them are an important shareholder. Grabbing those assets and attempting to dispose of them, or just taking them over by the government could have disastrous effects (especially in terms of corporate governance). Regardless of my scepticism towards OFE, I am wary of silly attempt to scrap the remnants of the system. And if it is to be wound down, it needs to be carried through slowly and with care.

I doubt PiS will aim at full liquidation of private-run pension funds, as Mr Orban did in Hungary, but pursuit of the party’s economic agenda remains in the realm of the unknown. Shortly after the ruling declared it would submit a draft of a decree stating assets in pension funds are private property of pension fund participants. Such new law, in order to make any sense, would need to empower citizens whose pension contributions were paid into pension funds, to have discretion over their assets. Sell-off on the Warsaw Stock Exchange would be in the cards then, I suppose. I voted for, yet it does not mean their agenda is fully in line with my views. Defence of OFE by Mr Petru and his henchmen is not what I would have ever put up with.

Two weeks since the memorable have gone by and speculations over the line-up of the would-be PiS government are to be cut off tomorrow, when names of particular ministers are to be unveiled. Just like some prominent politicians of PiS were locked away during the campaign, after the voting day Mrs Szydło has enjoyed the well deserved rest. She confirmed in social media she was doing well, but did not seem to be involved in designating new government members. The more nasty commentators imply it is the Mr Kaczynski who is actually dealing out cards.

The inaugural session of the new parliament is scheduled for 12 November. By coincidence, an informal EU summit on migration problems is held on the same day. The collision between the two days is now a matter of squabbling between PiS and PO and bears a very poor testimony of Mr Duda’s stance towards importance of foreign policy. The topic of the summit is too significant to shrug it off and let Poland lack its representation. I confess not to know who (president or prime minister or any of the two) has the right to represent Poland, but in my view, if allowed by law and diplomatic protocol, the one who has stronger mandate (not the outgoing prime minister) should show up there and the inaugural session should have been planned for earlier or later date.

Could have done with a longer commentary, but spent most of this weekend catching up with overdue work. There have been some staff redeployments within the New Factory and my scope of duties has increased well beyond what can be handled within 40 – 45 hours a week. Hope things shape up within a few weeks.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Ogarnij się!

For starters, to prompt comments from my (sparse) readers – what is the best English equivalent of the Polish verb ogarniać się, in its recently most popular meaning, i.e. to do something do bring stuff under control? To spruce up / to smarted up which pop up when an on-line dictionary is asked, are palpable misnomers and actually render another, more traditional meaning of ogarniać się. Get a grip on oneself, get one’s act together, get hold of oneself appear to fit better, yet by no means they are perfect equivalents. Dear native speakers – any hints?

And the ogarnięcie się is a common denominator to a Polityka weekly’s ranking of twenty two changes in a life one should make before turning 30. The article has taken my fancy right away, yet after the second or third read, I have found the list weird. Nevertheless, out of curiosity I have put myself to the adulthood test… Here we go…

1. Aiming at give-and-take, since digging one’s hills in to prove one is right, gets people nowhere.
Me: Had such period, some five to three years ago when I wanted to demonstrate everyone my supremacy. With time, and having been told off by a few folks wiser than me, I have come to my senses.

2. Cutting down on alcohol. Health no longer permits, too little time to overcome hangover, not to mention dire aftermaths drinking too much.
Me: This might come to a big surprise, yet there was a time when I drank much and when I could take in a lot of alcohol. A wake-up call came after a booze in June this year, when after clearly overdosing alcohol the next day hangover was not my only problem; my kidneys refused to work and I ended up on emergency ward with symptoms of body poisoning, having to gulp instantly two litres of mineral work to kick-start the poisoned organs. Until today I feel ashamed of my irresponsible behaviour and resolved to give up on binge drinking forever.

3. Sleeping through the whole weekend – no longer apposite.
Me: Never had that problem. There are plenty of interesting things one can do over the weekend, so sleeping is a waste of time…

4. Paying off all debts, particularly those on credit cards…
Me: I have had a credit card for eight years and I have always repaid it before the end of grace period. But on the other hand I have friends for who a credit card is a source of easy spending, without minding the fact one day its balanced will need to be cleared and if it is done too late, the cost of borrowing is high.

5. Strange people all around in life. Time to get rid of them…
Me: In recent months, while trying to lift myself from the post-exam mess, I have also resolved to tell between shallow relationships and those which deserve to be fostered. Quality is more important than quantity. For one’s psyche it is more valuable to have a few dedicated friends than hundreds of acquaintances actually indifferent to you. Upshot – some phone numbers deleted from the phonebook, birthday date removed from facebook to ensure no hollow wishes next birthday and the most important – if I run across somebody on a street and put forward to meet, I call them and insist we meet! It has to said such attitude involves being very straightforward to people, something I appreciate more and more with time.

6. Stop reaching out for money to parents. It is not about living with parents, but about economic dependence.
Me: My general stance since the age of 22 when I began to earn money for which I could eke out a living is that a young man should finance all their whims from own pocket and give parents money for house maintenance. Never ever have I asked for or suggested I want money from parents, except recently, when I openly asked whether they would give me some money (up to 25% of total cost) for a purchase of a flat.

7. Holding your horses while doing shopping. Reckless spending should become thing of the past.
Me: Never been fond of gadgets and saved for a flat, so again, not my problem. Yet self-indulgence is a problem I observe with many people, regardless of their age. It is a matter of character and habits, not the age, I would claim.

8. Giving up smoking.
Me: never had a cigarette in my mouth.

9. Announcing parties on facebook – no longer on.
Me: Have never done it, being restraint with facebook. Reality is off-line and may it stay so… I guess here the author began to run out of bright ideas what else to add to the list…

10. Regular and consistent work-out to keep body fit.
Me: Since my commute to work is too simple and repeatable (car & underground) and work is sedentary, this makes a necessity. Dance classes once a week, swimming pool once a week and twenty minutes of exercise a day (yet not every day) do their bit, yet I feel it is not enough.

11. Healthy food: time to abandon junk food and the likes.
Me: Never been fond of McDonald’s / kebab-style eateries, yet eating out in town or buying ready meals from catering door-to-door company is not the most commendable form of nutrition. Maybe time to learn to cook something more complicated and begin to prepare lunches to work on one’s own?

12. Taking care of one’s skin. Problems with acme are long gone, but wrinkles being to appear.
Me: A piece of advice aimed rather at females, yet I use a liquid and a gel for face skin if I am to confess.

13. Taking responsibility of one’s deeds is how a mature man behaves…
Me: Obviously.

14. Décor of one’s room / flat which does not resemble a teenager’s room.
Me: I parted with this part of décor in room when my parents and I moved to NI when I was 16…

15. Splurging money at painting the town red. Going out to town from time to time is okay, but not every day.
Me: See comment to point #7. Plus… Roaming around town once in blue moon or more often, if one can afford it, is no evil.

16. Spend more time with family and care more about relatives.
Me: What I crave for is my own family. Of course, and especially as an only child, I will have to take care of my parents, yet not at the expense of personal life.

17. Minding the cleanness / tidiness at home as yet another proof of maturity.
Me: I dislike scruffiness, I do not feel at ease in messy interior. The question is whether it runs in genes or is an effect of upbringing…

18. Carrying things through… Once an adult sets about doing something, they strive to complete it, against all odds.
Me: Those who know me, know the answer…

19. An elephant’s memory is not a good advisor. The ability to forgive and rebuild tattered relationships is vital in adult life.
Me: My ambition is not to take umbrage nor to kick up a fuss, no matter how lousy circumstances are. Resentments, though sometimes inevitable, should stay in the darkest nooks and crannies of human minds. Yet forgive cannot always mean forget.

20. Taking care of your teeth…
Me: Again, needless to say… What a truism…

21. Start saving… Setting up a savings account or a pension plan seem reasonable…
Me: See points #7 and #15

22. Age awareness. Turning 30 should prompt you to act your age, live consciously, yet live it up!
Me: Sometimes it seems I go over the top in this respect and if I rejuvenated myself, I would be better off. Youth after all is not behind me.

For some reasons, the list could have been supplemented with many other points reflect expectation a society has towards people aged around 30. And for some reasons, they have not been put on the list. The author has not mentioned getting married, having children, finding a permanent job or moving out of parents’ dwelling. Had the two former been listed, boundaries of an individual’s privacy would have been encroached upon. If finding a spouse is often a matter of luck or being out of luck while more and more people for biological reasons cannot have children, urging people to do something about it would be out of place. While in the era of junk contracts, commanding young people to make career and set up own households might indicate the author is out of touch…

I only wonder why turning 30 has been set as milestone for the end of carefree youth? If formally one becomes adult at the age of 18 and many people fly the nest shortly thereafter to begin studies away from home and often need to fend for themselves, why 30? Indeed, the age at which people do something about their lives increased in the recent decades but has the omnipresent cult of youth done the job? Is the fear of entering adulthood (or rather taking responsibilities) here to blame? Or is it just a simple desire to remain young as long as possible? And, after all, why cannot the words: young, responsible, mature, go together?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The historic day

Last week of the campaign was hot. On Monday evening two would-be prime ministers clashed in a TV debate, lacklustre, full of trotted out catchwords, hackneyed promises and hollow words. The other day TV stations hosted a debate of eight party leaders. That show’s value added was much higher and probably substantive, appealing appearances of small party leaders (Mr Petru, Mr Zandberg) took some support off the largest parties and helped smaller grouping garner more votes. Nevertheless the Tuesday’s debate laid bare how embarrassing Mrs Kopacz and Mrs Szydło are and how leaders of other parties stand out. I suppose the debate convinced many voters the times of choice between PO and PiS only should be over and a breath of fresh air is essential to unfreeze Polish political arena.

Today I turned up to the polling station in NI just after 9:00 a.m. I have a habit of going to vote possibly early, but never, ever have I seen such turnout. Clement weather and clocks going backward a few hours earlier could have contributed to high number of citizens casting votes. Media reported numerous queues in polling stations, while official figures by PKW showed the turnout at midday was anything but impressive, but at 5:00 p.m. up-to-the-mark with commendably high number of voters visiting polling stations in big cities. Such facts theoretically should not augur well for PiS…

Needless to say ban for publishing part results of the elections in the era of the Internet is ludicrous. Disguised results, varying from one to another, were disturbing, most showing swingeing lead of PiS (allowing them to form a government without having to look for a coalitional partner) and distressingly high score of Kukiz ’15.

Preliminary results show 4 parties will definitely make it to the parliament, PSL is balancing near 5% threshold, Kukiz is unlikely to get a double-digit score and… PiS will get what they were fighting for – simple majority in the parliament. They managed to attain what was unattainable even for PO at the height of its popularity. Fortunately, along with Kukiz, they are short of some 20 deputies to change the constitution.

I congratulate the winners and wish they run Poland well. We have to respect the citizen’s will. Let’s give them a chance.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Looking for a flat

Maybe it’s not a perfect moment, but I’m taking the moment and trying to make it perfect to revisit my post on property market published two years ago and find out what has changed on the marketplace since then.

The best answer to the question above is: “nothing, except for rising number of transactions”. In October 2013 I predicted a 3% y/y drop in property prices, while in reality prices were, despite small fluctuations, flat.

The graph to the right shows average property prices (per sqm) in Warsaw over the last 3 years (source: NBP). Cursory analysis of the graph tells you that: (1) sellers have begun to realise the boom is over and asking prices had to be adjusted down to lure buyers, (2) difference between asking prices and transaction prices narrows, (3) primary market witnesses a revival, while secondary market is featured with more price stability.

A careful analyst will scratch beneath the surface and discern two other regularities that need to be taken into account. Firstly, each quarter sample of properties making up the average is different. In one quarter properties of higher standard in better location could be traded, thus inflating the average price, in another quarter there could have been higher turnover in poorly located or rundown flats, sending the average price down. Secondly, the difference between asking prices and transaction prices does not show how steep discount a buyer can expect, since samples used to derive the averages are totally different.

Since primary and secondary property markets in Warsaw are worlds apart (to be elaborated on down the post), they behave differently, yet analysing the property market in Warsaw as a whole, judging by AMRON-SARFiN data (gathered from notaries), transaction prices are flat as a pancake, ranging between PLN 7,100 and PLN 7,400 per sqm over the last 3Y, a variation that is negligible. These figures however also need to be interpreted with caution, since samples of properties being composites of the average vary from quarter to quarter.

While looking at the post from October 2013, it does not hurt to review the factors which could drive property prices up and down.

The factors meant to increase property prices:

1. Interest rates – today NBP’s prime rate is 100 basis points lower than 2 years ago. This has not boosted much demand for mortgage loans, however distorted creditworthiness criteria at some banks. This is a trap, since if a household can afford repayments today, it might fall into troubles if interest rates revert to where they were in 2008 (which could mean nearly two times higher instalments).

2. Income brought by bank deposits is even lower that 100 basis points than 2 years ago, on account of overliquidity in the Polish banking system. According to press information, the outflow of money from banks into the property market is taking place, since greedy depositors keep chasing higher return. Frankly speaking I do not understand their rationale for investing on the property market (other than the fact property is tangible). If after-tax rental yield is now in Warsaw some 4%, while after-tax return on a decent bank deposit is 2% (absolutely attainable), the extra income is 2 percentage points (no, not two times higher, you should calculate it as percent of capital invested). Now from the two additional percentage points per year of the yield you should deduct:
I) one-off transactions costs incurred at the purchase of a flat (ca. 3% for notarial charges, transaction taxes and entry in the land and mortgage register + potential commission for estate agent of another some 3%),
II) inevitable costs of void periods, i.e. when a flat is empty and not only does not earn income, but generates fixed costs, and cost of finding a tenant (additionally inflated, if you entrust the task to an estate agent),
III) cost of wear and tear,
IV) premium for uncertainly regarding price appreciation / depreciation – at exit this will materialize,
V) liquidity premium (compare how easy it is to convert a flat and a bank deposit into cash).
I deliberately do not count in problems with rent collection and damages done by tenants, since these can be covered from cash bail paid up-front, as well as all the hassle letting a property involves.
I can also reiterate the question how the increase supply of flats for rent will be met by demand from tenants, in the long run I do not see a balance here…

3. Cash buyers, who have waited for the perfect moment, keep generating demand. On top, I see these days lots of people who are at the process of upgrading to a more posh property (the question is whether they plan to dispose of previous flats).

4. In October 2013 supply of flats under construction was shrinking, today it is back rising and record-high. In two or three years, I foresee a supply overhang…

5. The government-run borrower-support scheme in Warsaw had little impact on primary market, because of the low price limit, however in the outer districts, prices of some flats were adjusted up to fit the limit, while in those more attractive downward adjustments were witnessed. Since September 2015 MDM covers also secondary market, however with price cap of some PLN 5,200 per sqm, only a tiny minority of low-standard flats fall under the scheme.

The factors that were meant to decrease property prices:

1. Demographics – does work, but to minor extent. Two years ago I mentioned it as the most important factor in the long-run. We need to wait five to ten years to observe its impact on property prices.

2. Situation of youngsters – has not changed much in terms of job security of salaries.

3. Recommendation S – I believe higher requirements towards buyer’s equity will be more observable, when the missing percentage of equity will not be that easily supplemented with MDM subsidy or will not be insured easily. Full impact will be witnessed in 2017, when 20% own contribution will be a must and only half of it could be covered by MDM or low-equity insurance, this will mean each buyers will need to have some 13% of property price in cash…

4. Banks have somewhat unleashed their expansion in the mortgage loans segment, however it might be curbed by the newly enacted laws after the parliamentary elections. Banks will most probably need to pay a tax on assets, which will not hurt the banking sector much, however the solution for the problem of CHF-denominated loans has not been worked out and the threat of severe losses for the sector if the most abject scenario (converting loans at the exchange rate at which there were taken out) remains conceivable. If so, the property market might go into decline for two reasons: (1) banks would curb lending on account of capital shortfalls, (2) owners of many flats currently unsellable due to LTV > 100% would be unlocked to sell their properties and swap them for bigger ones (however they would find it harder if bank lending comes to a standstill).

5. Future insecurity – no headway since 2013

6. Property prices remain steep, but flat, so if wages rise, availability of properties increases.

7. Costs of living are generally flat, with official deflation, yet prices of basis goods, including household upkeep, going slightly up.

All in all the two groups of drivers have been offsetting each other and I expect them to do so in the near future. A considerable decline of the property market, if no external shock hits, is likely around 2018, when combined forces of inevitably looming demographics, oversupply of flats on primary market, more stringent mortgage lending regulations in force, should send real property prices down.

On my own front, I began to look for a flat actively this month. My general criteria a sought flat needs to meet:
- one bedroom, between 50 and 55 sqm area,
- separate kitchen,
- garage is a must,
- built after 1995
- location: Ursynów, Włochy or Ursus,
- budget constraint depending on a district.

The last dilemma still being sorted out is between the primary and secondary market.

A flat from a property developer:
- is brand-new and you are nearly free to arrange it the way you want,
- incurs lower maintenance costs in the first years of living,
- is less likely to be a pig in a poke (defects coming into the light and requiring additional repairs)
- involves lower transaction costs at the purchase.

In turn a flat from a secondary market:
- can boast of better location and better developed infrastructure (especially in Ursynów, where supply of new flats is short),
- might be ready for moving in,
- might have more reasonable layout (easier to find two rooms above 50 sqm and separate kitchen) and might have been built from better materials (regular bricks rather than pre-fabricated blocks).

Moreover, the primary market in terms of concluded transactions is booming (both supply and demand on the rise), hence developers might be resistant to attempts of haggling down the price, while the secondary market is in the doldrums and impatient sellers, tired of putting up their flats for sale for months, or even years, are willing to make bigger concessions. I can admit to have browsed property advertisement since taking the exam (so for more than 4 months) and I have noticed several advertisements stay there intact (dates are updated so that they appear closer to the top of the page, but price stays the same). Offer of flats in Warsaw today is virtually the same as it was in early summer...

What also need to be noted on the secondary market is the extent to which it has been plagued by incompetent estate agents. I understand sellers might be too busy to deal with sale process on their own, but for a brainy and well-versed in legal matters buyer, who also has some spare time to look for a property, an agent adds no value (confirmed by brainy friends who used to make money on being well-paid intermediaries in good times). On the market which is in the doldrums, competition among estate agents is high and you can find the same flat (same photos) put up by several agencies, at different prices, with different usable area and located at different streets, which additionally proves incompetence of estate agents!

Another question I am facing is, how to buy not to lose on it. Given my relationship status and size of sought flat, the flat I’m looking for from the beginning is not the target property. If prices go down, I argue this should not be the problem, since my flat will be worth less, but in absolute number, prices of larger flats will go down by even more.

On the other hand, what the future holds is uncertain. I do not know whether a girlfriend appears in three months or in three years, when, if at all, I will get married and when my children will be born. My parents, who agreed to support me financially in my plans, think it would make sense much more to firstly find a girlfriend and then to think about a target flat or house. Nevertheless they agree there is the stage of a relationship when people should live together, but it is too early to take far-reaching decisions, such as buying a property for more than half a million PLN. And they also agree I enter the age when a male should live on his own… Something I long for, yet not at all costs.

After all young males (including me) feel a desire to be independent, have something that belongs to them, have privacy essential at such age and take responsibilities. Oddly enough, the percentage of young (aged 25-34) people in Poland living with parents keeps increasing. Not only the harsh labour market is to blame. Generation gap is waning, parents are more tolerant, so decision not to fly the nest, not to taste duties and responsibilities taking care of oneself involves, appears convenient for many adults.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Home straight before the vote

The topic of the oncoming parliamentary election in Poland has been neglected on PES for too long. Like many Poles, disgruntled with feeble PO-led government, I have grown indifferent to politics, hence the absence of up-to-date commentaries. Beware though! You may be incensed, you may be fed up with politicians, yet it must not be the reason to take umbrage at democracy at all and decline to go to the polls; sadly many clever people around declare to do so, for the first time since many years.

Since many voters have not yet decided who they will support, a short (biased) overview of what the parties which stand a chance of garnering seats in the parliament lure us with.

1. Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) and its sidekick-groupings

The odds-on favourite winner according to all reliable polls, with support oscillating between 30% and 40%. Since the party generally lacks ability to find a coalitional partner and refuses to make concessions in its pursuit to lift Poland from ruins, it aims for a score which would secure them a simple majority in the parliament. Given the recent drop in support for the party and how numerous the anti-PiS electorate is, the scenario seems now out of reach, although the party capitalises well on Poles’ weariness of Platforma being in power for too long.

The party strives to run a substantive campaign with focus on economic agenda. While the end is commendable, means leave a lot to be desired and hollow promises do not hold water, when confronted with shortage of budget proceeds to finance the joyful spending spree.

For a long time PiS kept some of its prominent leaders (Mr Macierewicz, Ms Pawlowicz) locked away, presumably not to deter moderate voters. Only recently the party’s president, Mr Kaczynski, began to put in public appearances and for some reason this coincided with drop in support for the party.

While I can comprehend the Polish conservative society care little about problems of civil partnerships, abortion, in-vitro, etc., I find it mind-boggling how short a human memory can be. The rule of PiS and its coalitional partners, brought to an end in October 2007, two years of spoiling Poland’s secret services, justice system and harnessing them to chase own political goals should have been engraved in Poles’ memories. This style of doing politics was rejected by Poles in 2007. Now it is likely to return, with much stronger magnitude…

2. Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform)

After eight years of being in charge of the country, PO begins to pay the price for numerous scandals, getting riveted to privileges of power and for straying away from ordinary people’s problems. Thanks to the generous injection of money from the EU, under PO rule Poland has moved ahead considerably, yet the progress has not necessarily been felt by many Poles in terms of their standard of living. As I once quoted Mr Sienkiewicz, I can reiterate an average Kowalski has not benefited enough from all the positive developments which have taken place in the recent years and asks “what’s in it for me?”. Prime minister Kopacz has discerned it, yet far too late, and had far too little time to catch up for the lost years.

The wake-up call for the party was the lost presidential election, a clear signal many Poles opt for a change, just for the sake of overthrowing the current state of affairs, even if what is offered in return is uncertain. PO is desperately fighting to regain support of disillusioned voters and entices groups of voters who have never been PO’s core electorate – hence since Mrs Kopacz took charge of the party, PO’s agendas, both the economic and the social, drift left. Maybe knowing PO stands no chance of winning over those who adore PiS, it strives to take over moderate leftist electorate, strategically the step is wise.

Another sign of party’s desperation is inviting political outcasts to candidate lists in the election. Presence of Mr Michał Kaminski and Mr Dorn (both guys were among the ardent builders of would-be Czwarta Rzeczpospolita, yet rejected by Mr Kaczynski instead of sliding into political non-existence, have found a cushy shelter on PO’s lists) and Mr Napieralski (he should begin to search for a regular job, a task well beyond his capacity, instead of living off taxpayers’ backs) is a ludicrous step I find barely forgivable.

As I keep track of the campaign, solitude of Mrs Kopacz is more and more noticeable. She goes it alone, she fights alone, her party-mates seem to be bracing for setting themselves up in the more comfortable role of the opposition.

3. Zjednoczona Lewica (the United Left)

To keep their heads above water, Mr Miller and Mr Palikot have decided to team up and fight the battle to survive together. This means they will need to reach the hurdle of 8%, a result that seems attainable, yet is glaringly low if you bear in mind, according to sociologists’ research, some 30% of Poles declare their views are leftist.

The agenda ZL (I will stoop low enough to “sink” them, since I believe criticism should be substantive and not referring to semantics) offers is clearly leftist, often populist. Thumbs up for them for laying out an agenda that could actually benefit the poorest, thumbs down for the same agenda which is unviable and would hamper economic growth.

All in all, ZL attempts to position itself against PO (too liberal in economic terms and not enough liberal in social terms) and PiS (with makings of infringing civic freedoms and track record of treating favourably the wealthiest), looks out distinct to them, yet lacks credibility, most probably because its image has been tainted by dodgy party leaders (Mr Miller and Mr Palikot) out of favour with several leftist voters.

4. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (translated as the Peasant Party)

Current coalitional partner of PO. In polls always balances near the 5% parliament entry threshold and always scoring much higher in actual elections. The party’s credibility (with me) has been dented by recent utterance of its leader, Mr Piechocinski, who claimed the great coalition of PO, PiS and PSL would be to the benefit of Poland. Screw loose, dear neighbour, determination of your henchmen to hold on to stools in ministries and government agencies must be really strong, but talking your head off has some boundaries! If PSL deputies find some seats in the parliament, they will make up a coalitional partner for anybody.

5. Kukiz ‘15

Whenever a grouping has its leader surname it its name, it brings out associations with personality cult and I find it off-putting straight away. Mr Kukiz, having scored an impressive result in the presidential election, has wasted much of his alleged potential afterwards, yet eventually has also managed to get his act together and compile lists for elections. Despite having no agenda, since any agenda is a deceit, he still stands a chance of making his way to the parliament, carried by the votes of the fed up, outraged, duped, etc.


Set up less than four months ago, endeavours to offer an alternative to PO electorate let down by how PO has strayed from its original economic liberal agenda. Nowoczesna calls for reforms PO shies away from, yet its agenda is disguised as beneficial for all citizens, while many points (e.g. flat taxes) of it favour only the richest. For the sake of straightforwardness, I would prefer if it clearly dubbed itself representatives of entrepreneurs and corporate rodents.

Two weeks ahead of the election, the most likely scenario is that all six parties make it into the parliament, but PiS will not have the ability to form the coalition which would have majority in the lower house. The only natural partner for them would be Kukiz ’15, alliance with some deputies from PSL and ZL (then ZLew) seems also conceivable. Most likely we will be in for long squabbling that will benefit nobody.

Personally… In the lower house election I am going to put a cross against Let’s face it, they best represent my interests as a financial sector employee. My rationale is selfish, yet if a scenario of broad coalition against PiS materialises, I would prefer it to have economically liberal tilt and only presence of can ensure it.

In the upper house election, I will vote for (and not against other candidates) professor Monika Płatek backed by ZL, an outstanding lawyer and a voice of common sense in public discourse regarding civic freedoms. I hope PO electorate, plentiful in sub-Warsaw constituency, will hold back from voting for Mr Giertych, indirectly supported by PO (shame on you, PO) by not putting out a counter-candidate.

Looking forward to days after 25 October 2015; will be anything but boring!