Poland's new leader pledges an era of moral renewal

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The Independent Online
Promising a "moral renewal" and fundamental economic reforms, Solidarity's new Prime Minister yesterday served notice that his four-year term will focus on eradicating the last remnants of communism in Poland.

In an inaugural address of the new Sejm, Jerzy Buzek, the 57-year-old chemistry professor entrusted with the new government, sought to invoke the values that bound the anti-communist alliance together.

"There will not be a strong Poland without moral order, without patriotism, or respect for the Christian roots of our civilisation. Today we want to make up for the time that was wasted," he declared, in a reference to the four years that Solidarity had spent in the wilderness. The remaining state-owned industries would be privatised by 2001, Mr Buzek pledged. Coal mining and heavy industry would be restructured.

The government's aim was that Poland's economy should be based on private property, with state support for a newly-emerging middle class. "We want a free economy with chances for everyone," the Prime Minister told MPs ahead of last night's confidence vote.

Mr Buzek said his government would do away with unnecessary licences, cut corporate taxes and "remove barriers limiting home and foreign investment". He identified the economic priorities as promoting growth, curbing inflation and reducing the budget deficit.

Former communists criticised the Prime Minister for being short of specifics. "The speech contained many sensible goals, but the explanation of how to achieve them was foggy," their leader, Jozef Oleksy, said.

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