Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Daily News – April, 19th

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Poland buries President Kaczynski in Krakow

KRAKOW – Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in Poland’s ancient capital yesterday for the burial of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, but volcanic ash over Europe prevented many world leaders from joining them. U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those forced by the ash cloud to abandon plans to attend the funeral in Krakow for Kaczynski and his wife Maria, killed in a plane crash in western Russia on April 10.

However, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev managed to fly to the city, reinforcing a strong message of Russian solidarity since the crash that has raised Polish hopes for an improvement in long-strained ties with their communist-era overlord. Romanian President Traian Basescu traveled to Krakow by car.

The funeral at Krakow’s Wawel cathedral crowns a week of unprecedented national mourning for the Kaczynskis and 94 other, mostly senior political and military officials who also died. Police said about 60,000 people had gathered in central Krakow ahead of the transportation of the Kaczynskis’ coffins to Wawel cathedral at 1330 GMT where they would be placed in the crypt alongside Polish kings, national heroes and poets.

In Warsaw, Poles had queued through Saturday night to view the coffins while they remained on public display. The coffins were taken to Krakow by military plane early on Sunday, flying at low altitude because of the ash cloud that has shut the airspace of Poland and many other European countries to commercial traffic.

Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, a former prime minister, and other family members insisted the funeral go ahead on Sunday as planned. The family, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and interim President Bronislaw Komorowski travelled to Krakow by train. Obama said he regretted being unable to attend the funeral. U.S. Ambassador Lee Feinstein was due to represent him. “President Kaczynski was a patriot and close friend and ally of the United States, as were those who died alongside him, and the American people will never forget the lives they led,” Obama said in a statement shortly before he had been due to fly. Poland, part of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, is now a member of NATO and a close U.S. ally.

Merkel of Germany, Poland’s western neighbour and biggest trade partner, also expressed regret at having to call off her trip. Germany’s president and foreign minister flew to Krakow from Berlin by helicopter for the funeral. Leaders of other relatively nearby countries such as Ukraine and the Czech Republic also were expected to attend. Medvedev’s presence was ironic, given that Kaczynski was a stern critic of what he called Russia’s “imperialism” towards ex- Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine.

Kaczynski flew to Georgia during its short 2008 war with Russia to demonstrate Polish solidarity with President Mikheil Saakashvili. The Georgian leader was due to attend his funeral. When their plane crashed in thick fog, Kaczynski and his entourage had been heading to Katyn forest in western Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police.

Wawel cathedral was the coronation site of virtually all of Poland’s monarchs and the adjacent castle was the centre of government for five centuries until the end of the 16th century.

Some Poles have staged protest rallies and joined petitions on social media site Facebook against the decision to bury Kaczynski in such a hallowed spot. Kaczynski, president since 2005, was a polarising figure whose support levels had fallen to about 20 percent before his death. He had been expected to lose a presidential election due in the autumn and now likely to be held on June 20. The protests were the first cracks in an otherwise remarkable display of national unity since the crash.

Meanwhile Saturday, Poland paid an emotional tribute to Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 other mostly senior political and military officials killed in the plane crash. Up to 100,000 mourners, many clutching red-and-white national flags threaded with black ribbons, packed into the vast Pilsudski Square in central Warsaw to commemorate the victims of the country’s most devastating accident since World War Two.

Saturday’s commemoration included a three-gun salute and a Roman Catholic requiem mass, and the crowd was addressed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk. “They all had their dreams and hopes for the future of their homeland. This is a serious test for us to understand those hopes well and take them into the future,” said Tusk, who had been a political rival of Kaczynski’s.

This is the most we can do for them. We are here to remember them. Poland is here to remember them. We will not forget,” he said. Behind him on the podium a tall, white cross rose up between two large black panels bearing the portraits of all the dead, whose names an actor read out one by one. Source: Reuters

Croitoru: Hiking taxes when economy is contracting an odd idea

Hiking taxes when the economy is contracting would represent ‘an odd measure,’ especially if public expenditures are inefficient, National Bank (BNR) Governor’s advisor Lucian Croitoru said, quoted by Mediafax. “Hiking taxes when you’re aware that the manner in which public expenditures are run is inefficient is not a solution. On the other hand, a tax hike cannot lead to resumption of economic growth. (…) In my opinion, hiking any major tax at a time when economy is contracting would be an odd measure,” Croitoru said while on Pro TV’s ’20 years later’ show on Sunday. He agrees that the government is duty-bound to make a permanent estimate of budget revenues and to compensate possible deficits.

The BNR official also admits that salary and pension laws won’t have immediate effects, and that is why the deficit adjustment will be marginal, from 7.2 per cent to 5.9 per cent of GDP. The same reason also stood behind Romania’s decision to postpone from 2011 to 2012 its obligation to fall within a budget deficit of 3 per cent of GDP.

Croitoru believes the government lacks palpable mechanisms with which to support economic recovery but has to maintain balance in order for the business environment to be prepared for recovery when external signals are positive. Croitoru gave the tax on wealth and forcing banks to allow their clients to postpone payment of their instalments by up to one year as examples of possible odd measures.

Banks are not lowering interest rates for loans at a faster pace because the demand has shrank significantly and there is ‘some inefficiency’ within the banking system, a system that failed to adjust to the new conditions, Croitoru added. Nevertheless he does not see the need for layoffs in this sector. Croitoru pointed out that in these conditions banks should cover a certain level of their costs, suggesting that the system should not resort to layoffs in order to be prepared to resume crediting, being thus forced to temporarily cover their costs from higher interest rates for loans.

The BNR official does not believe that banks are impeding economic growth resumption, pointing out that in any crisis economy recovered first and crediting resumed 2-3 quarters later. He opined that Romania has a good base, considering that 65-67 per cent of loans for companies are destined for SMEs, but only 25 per cent of the SMEs are resorting to bank loans.

Romania risks taking a ‘wrong path’ by drawing large loans from the IMF and the EU without making the agreed restructuring, Croitoru explained when asked whether Romania could find itself in Greece’s situation after borrowing large sums from the IMF and the EU and spending them on pensions and salaries. The BNR official admitted that it was known from the start of the agreement that money from the IMF and the EU will be used for salaries and pensions. He pointed out that this is not only the problem of the current government but of all governments that failed to make their public expenditures more efficient.

Through this agreement we avoided depreciation of the population’s RON-denominated savings and we maintained economic stability. The economic drop would have been even steeper without the IMF. (…) If properly implemented this agreement will end with the resumption of economic growth and economic stability,” he said.

Croitoru explained that a public debt of up to 60 per cent of GDP should not be considered dangerous as long as the economy is stable and growth and investments resume. The BNR Governor’s advisor also pointed out that following a welcomed adjustment the exchange rate was relatively stable once the agreement with the IMF was announced in February 2009. Source: ProTV.

Israel at 62: Population of 7,587,000

Ahead of Independence Day, Central Bureau of Statistics reports population grew by 137,000 in past year. Over 75% of Israel’s residents are Jews, 159,000 babies born in past year.  Israel celebrates 62nd birthday: Two days before Independence Day, the population of the State of Israel stands at 7,587,000 people, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed Sunday.

 According to the CBS, the Jewish population in Israel numbers some 5,726,000 residents (75.7% of the entire population). The Arab population numbers some 1,548,000 residents (20.4% of the population).  The population defined as “other”, which includes anyone not included in either of the previous groups, numbers some 313,000 (4.1%). Most of the people included in the “other” category are immigrants who are not registered as Jews at the Interior Ministry.

 This time last year Israel had a population of 7,411,000 residents. Since last Independence Day some 159,000 babies were born in Israel, 37,000 people passed away, some 16,000 immigrants moved to Israel and another 9,000 people were added to the population as citizens.  In contrast, 10,000 Israelis left the country. In total, the Israeli population grew by some 137,000 residents in the past year – a 1.8% increase.

The numbers further show that over 70% of the Jewish population was born in Israel, compared to 35% in the year 1948.  In the year David Ben-Gurion declared the State’s establishment, only one city in Israel – Tel Aviv-Jaffa – had a population of over 100,000 residents.  Today, Israel has 14 cities with over 100,000 residents. Six of these cities have populations that exceed 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod and Petah Tikva. Source: Ynet

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