It is for that reason that after the Law and Justice dismantled the rule of law and judicial independence, destroyed the civil service and the politicised state-owned companies and public media sector, it is now shifting its attention to the last two bastions it does not control - local government and independent private media.
The ruling camp makes promises, the local government pays for them
Law and Justice is not the first party in the history of Poland to shift duties to local governments without balancing them out via additional financial support. However, under the current government such an approach is a conscious strategy aimed at bringing about a more centralised Poland.
The education system illustrates it well. The costs of the miscarried education reform have fallen on local governments. But the biggest burden is the growing gap between the educational subsidy and the actual expenditure on education, which already in 2018 grew to 23.5 billion PLN (including the wage increases for teachers promised by the government).
The situation is similar in the public health sector, where wage increases for nurses and doctors have caused a spike in the level of indebtedness of county hospitals, which in turn have to be saved by local governments to the extent of their modest financial possibilities.
In general, local governments are contributing financially to the tasks commissioned by the government, even such as the administration of the famous 500+ child allowance scheme. Serious income losses were caused by the government's electoral tax manoeuvres introduced in the midst the 2019 financial year (!) - zero income tax for people under 26 and a reduction in income tax from 18 to 17%. On the expenditure side, we should mention the rising electricity prices, so far not felt by the residents. Never before have local governments been so severely financially hurt as they are now.
No "local government anti-crisis shield"
These losses were incurred by local governments before the pandemic. It is more difficult to estimate the effects of freezing the economy in 2020. Local governments' income will certainly suffer. Mostly from public transport tickets, but also from paid parking zones, fair fees, rents for municipal buildings and other local charges. Local finances will be even more ravaged by the fall in income tax revenues, especially corporate income tax. The total loss is estimated at PLN 14-16 billion in 2020.
Unfortunately, local governments remain without government protection. The only solution lies in the "anti-crisis shield 4.0" in the form of loosening the rules of indebtedness only in 2020. This is close to nothing compared to the offer of non-refundable subsidies for companies. It is a kind of help, but also a trap if, for the reasons mentioned above, local governments are unable to pay their debts. The comprehensive bill establishing a "local government anti-crisis shield" developed in the Senate has no chance of success. Thus, the local governments disliked by Law and Justice have to cope on their own at this critical time.
What awaits dissenting local governments, such as Pomerania?
What has already gained the name of "financial murder" on local governments is a common rule of the Law and Justice party. The dissenting local governments are in a special distress. Pomerania is a particularly elucidating example. Here, the Law and Justice party behaves like a colonizer on conquered territories. The center of power is the voivode, who spreads rumours such as that Kashubians are aiming to destroy the territorial integrity of the Polish state and was reluctant to help the victims of the storm in 2017.
The transport infrastructure of the region is suffering. For the current authorities, the S6 express route connecting Szczecin with the Tri-City ends in Słupsk, and the last section is to be implemented in the form of a public-private partnership, which means that it will be built later and more expensive.
In other areas, ministers Gliński and Sellin went after the icons of Pomeranian memory and culture - the Museum of World War II and the European Solidarity Centre.
Retaliation is therefore carried out in many ways, but in the long run, the greatest damage will be caused by the removal of the most important "control panels" from Pomerania: Energa and Lotos state-owned companies.
Energa was forced to rescue the Polish Mining Group and build a coal unit in Ostrołęka, which meant incurring a billion PLN loss for 2019 and the possibility of Orlen taking over in April 2020 for a fraction of the value from 2015. Swallowing Lotos by Orlen requires the conditional consent of the European Commission, and these conditions mean the loss of Lotos' long-term achievements, a decision deprived of any economic sense.
Let us add to this an equally nonsensical cross-cutting of the Vistula Spit without any hope of achieving any economic or military goals through this initiative, and we have a full overview of ideas for how to harm the unruly regions.
Good central government, evil local authorities
"A whole range of tasks are being transferred to the local governments without any financial resources... This is why I would like to appeal to the local governments to have the courage to oppose these measures and say that enough is enough" - Beata Szydło said in 2013, still as a member of the opposition.
Now the local authorities have the courage to say "enough" and they are billing the government for the heavy losses. But the government does not listen to the local governments, because it supposedly knows better how to make Poles happy by making all the decisions in Warsaw. For example, via the centrally-managed Local Government Roads Fund and the governmental Local Investment Fund. The latter doesn't even exist yet, but the government is already handing out electoral cheques that are supposedly equivalent to the money that the Fund will provide.
It is easy to predict the economic and political consequences of the anti-local government Law and Justice campaign. When looking for savings, local governments will have to make cuts in investments, especially pro-development investments. Also including those investments that they promised their citizens during their victorious campaign of 2018. In turn, this will make their voters disappointed, facilitating the final resolution of the issue of "dissenting" local government in Law and Justice favour. That is why the local government is now the bastion of Polish democracy.
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