Polish Aid Package Will Help Ease Food Crisis
LECH WALESA did not get his Marshall plan. But Congress did provide $938 million over three years for Poland and Hungary. Although this amount is considerably less than the $13 billion that Gen. George Marshall spent to revitalize Western Europe after World War II, it is double what President Bush had originally asked for. The East European aid package was rushed through Congress Friday night just two days after Mr. Walesa gave his historic address to a joint session of Congress. For every $1 of aid for Hungary, Poland gets $8. The result is a bill Polish authorities are happy with. The congressional package provides money for currency stabilization, food relief, private-sector development, and educational activities. ``Any assistance is crucial to Poland,'' says Boguslaw Najewski, the Polish Embassy press attach'e.
Polish authorities, however, were less pleased with organized labor, the hosts of Walesa's visit. Labor's opposition helped to defeat two bills which would have allowed a greater use of foreign flagged ships to ship needed food supplies. Using American flagged ships will make the costs higher.
The Polish-American Congress, one of the key lobbying groups pushing the aid package, was cautiously optimistic. ``Now we have to see how much of the money will be implemented by the appropriating committees,'' said Casimir Lenard, president of the Washington-area chapter of the congress.
The fight for the funding, says Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) of Ohio, is going well. Congresswoman Kaptur, who represents the Toledo area, says the appropriations will be very close to the amount authorized by Congress. The congressional enthusiasm was helped because several key congressmen went to Poland this fall and returned convinced of the need for immediate help.
The congressional bill, called the Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989, will provide $200 million for currency stabilization, $300 million for private-sector development, and $125 million in food aid. Other funding will go toward solving environmental ($40 million), medical ($4 million), and labor ($5 million) problems. To help the new democratic movement, the legislation provides $12 million that will be used in part for computerizing laws. Trade credit insurance of $200 million was included even though it did not make the Senate version of the legislation.
An important next step is getting all the aid organized, says Kaptur. She says Poland needs to centralize the process so every foreign dollar sent to Poland gets maximum use. In addition, Kaptur says the US needs to improve its own system. ``The US is terribly disorganized,'' she says.
Kaptur says President Bush needs to appoint a special ``very visible and respected'' ambassador who will be responsible for coordinating all the public and private aid efforts. ``Agencies are falling all over one another. Everyone wants to help. We need a conductor - right now we have all the musicians coming in through the windows,'' Kaptur says.
Some people think Congress should do even more for Poles. Michael Sadovi, the president of Star Litho Art Company in Chicago, wrote Sen. Paul Simon (D) last month about easing immigration rules for the Polish.
Mr. Sadovi, who employs several Polish immigrants, recently lost his best Polish pressman to Canada because of the slow response time of US immigration to a request for citizenship. Said Sadovi, ``I have seen this country lose the benefit of having these worthy individuals become contributing members of our society.''