Polish economy cranks up -- but needs outside push
There are lemons again with my morning "herbata" (tea), and other items blocked at the strike-bound Baltic ports for nearly three weeks are reappearing.
The country's economic wheels are beginning to turn again.
But at least another two weeks are believed needed to clear the pileup at the docks and get coal and other exports moving out. It will also take more time to stoke idled factories with the necessary raw materials to bring them up to full production again.
Poland, meanwhile, is to get help from both East and West. But Western countries will need to be circumspect about how they provide aid, since Moscow is trying to pin the crisis on Western "subversive" elements and not on the faults admitted by the Polish government.
Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Jagielski, the government's strike negotiator, has disclosed that the communist bloc allies have agreed to provide raw materials, goods, and food to help tide Poland's already faltering economy over its latest crisis.
An appeal was made to them in the last tense days before the Baltic agreements were concluded, as the Polish government was agonizing over what might happen if the strikes could not be ended.
The requests were made in the framework of Comecon, the East bloc's trading community, and the replies, this writer was informed, were all "comradely and positive."
The Russians came to Mr. Gierek's rescue in 1976 when Poland was feeling its first severe pinch of world recession and spiraling prices for raw materials. That first strike wave began to weaken his position and credibility, and he has never fully recovered.
Russia, it is said, will now provide additional credits for Polish purchases of raw materials in the West. It has also reportedly promised to make more crude oil available, despite frequent reminders to all the East Europeans earlier in the year that Soviet quotas had reached their limits.
Russia at present meets well over 70 percent of Poland's crude requirements.
Comecon is preparing an "emergency aid" package, which seems to confirm reports of Soviet anxiety over the potential unsettling effects of the crisis on Poland's neighbors. Moscow's desire for a peaceful outcome has also prompted the Kremlin to hold off pushing for any immediate change in the top Polish leadership.
The East Europeans, although experiencing some shortages of their own, will include meat in their aid package.
West Germany is the most likely of the West European powers to make a significant response to Poland's present plight, if only because of the strong personal rapport between Mr. Gierek and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in recent years.
The Polish government has also requested some $670 million worth of agricultural products for next year through the US Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). If provided, it could prove even more important than the East bloc's contributions.
The new allocation, $120 million more than the CCC put up in the fiscal year just ending, would among other things cover about 4 million tons of grain, or half the country's estimated requirements.
Poland is expected to be able to secure the rest from Australia, Canada, and some of the European Community countries with no difficulty. It may even get some grain from Russia.
The Polish request to the CCC was formally presented Aug. 24, though it had been under discussion since spring. The crisis is likely to bring an early and favorable decision in Washington. Pressures from the big Polish-American community are helping it along, especially in an election year.
Marian Minkiewicz, the president of the Polish Handlowy Bank, is currently in the US, but it is not known here if he is planning to make further requests for assistance.