Saturday, May 10, 2008

Poles not xenophobic, diagnoses Newsweek

Poles not xenophobic, diagnoses Newsweek

Newseek reporter disguises herself as members of different ethnic minority groups to assess Varsovians attitude towards foreigners.

Press reviewed by Krystyna Kołosowska

The Polish edition of Newsweek describes an interesting experiment. Its journalist dressed up as a black woman from Jamaica, then as a middle aged Romanian and as a middle-class woman from the United States. The experiment was simple; the objective was to test how the people of Warsaw treat different kinds of foreigners. Newsweek explains that the idea originated after Romanian Claudiu Crulic starved himself to death in a Polish prison. He was arrested for theft but claimed he was not guilty. He felt unjustly accused and refused to eat in protest. His dramatic decision did not move anyone for four months. Did he die because he was a Romanian? All the Poles asked this question. Violetta Ozimkowski took to the streets of Warsaw to find out for herself how negative the attitude of Poles towards foreigners can be. She writes in conclusion that definitely Poles do not feel an inborn aversion to aliens. On the contrary. We are eager to learn more about them and show a certain measure of shyness towards them. Even illegal immigrants begging in the streets do not arouse too much aggression. So, why did we let Claudiu Crulic die of hunger? Newsweek cries out.

Weekly Wprost has a cover story on what it calls tax parasites. It says that the Polish tax system has many gaps that devour one fourth of revenue from personal and corporate income tax and a third of revenue from VAT. The treasury will collect over 250 billion zlotys from Poles this year. In result, the income of the average Polish family will be reduced by over 20,000 zlotys. This figure could be lower by a third. The snag is that six million Poles do not pay taxes at all. Among them are naturally people who have no income – like the homeless, jobless and studying youths. However, the majority of the jobless and students work in the grey zone, praising this situation because they claim social benefits and have untaxed income, writes Wprost. Another group of people who don’t pay tax in Poland are the co-owners of some 2,5 million family-run farms. The Polish Peasant Party, rooted in rural areas, argues that these people are too poor to pay taxes. But in reality already in 2006 the average income per head in farming families was 10 percent higher than in working class families. Still, losses sustained by the state budget due to the fact that farmers don’t pay taxes are nothing compared with the losses caused by the grey zone. Foreign experts estimate them at 20 percent of GDP, while the Polish Main Statistical Office puts them at 14 percent to 17 percent. In western countries the grey zone is smaller by at least a half. It can be reduced here. This depends not only on moral standards of tax payers but also on the simplicity of the tax system and the level of taxes, says Wprost.

Polityka is worried that a law, which gives 60-year-old men the right to earlier retirement comes in force in Poland. The state is lowering the retirement age while other European countries are raising it. Who will work in Poland? – asks Polityka. Poles value their jobs but they are interested in retirement even more. In communist Poland the authorities readily handed out the right to earlier retirement. So much so that Poles regard it as an important social benefit, as important as the eight-hour working day. Trade unions are ready to stage protests and strikes to defend it. Retirement rights have even provoked a war of the sexes. A resident of the central city of Lodz claimed he was discriminated against as a male because he could not retire at the age of 60 like women. The Constitutional Tribunal accepted his arguments. In effect, an amended retirement law comes in force. But from the economic point of view women here have more reasons to complain as they are pushed of the labor market earlier than men. Earning less than men and working for a shorter period of time, Polish women cannot count on getting a decent pension eventually, Polityka points out.

Weekly Solidarnosc says that Poland should build 900 kilometres of motorways and twice as many kilometers of expressways for the Euro 2012 championships. But the realisation of the plan may be foiled by soaring building materials prices and red tape. Only 70 kilometers of motorways are to materialise before the end of this year. To realise the construction program, 400 kilometres of roads should be built every year, almost six times more than this year’s record.

Przekroj presents the Farmer of the Year 2008 in Poland – Witold Grunwald. The 46-year-old local leader from eastern Poland, who runs a 55 hectare farm, has defeated other contestants with his innumerable skills. He won top grades for his presentation of the eastern Podlasie region, from which he hails. He proved unbeatable in folk dancing and singing, egg white whipping, breaking in of a bull and feeding his partner blindfolded. The jury was impressed. Grunwald won the agriculture minister’s cup, home cinema equipment and a trip to Brussels, where he will visit, among other things, institutions disbursing subsidies to farmers like him.

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