LET’S BE WISE BEFORE A DAMAGE
Polish State Forests are a very good example for realization of the concept of balanced development, a concept which is so fashionable in the policy of the European Commission. We were cutting down forests, we gained wood which gave workplaces - and we have more and more forests and more and more wood in these forests. We used to pick up mushrooms, blueberries, we used to hunt and we did not even lose any wild species. On the contrary – in our State Forests there is a definite increase of many these species which disappeared long time ago from the map of the ‘highly-developed’ Europe. Polish State Forests take a higher position in their management model than forests of uniting Europe by tens of years and according to the ‘new forestry strategy of EU for the sake of forests and the forest-wood sector’ (COM 659 final of 20.09.2013) they should be an example to follow not only by the whole European Union but all countries of the world. The position of the Polish State Forests is proven by the moment of honoring them by UNESCO in the year 2013 with a reward for prominent achievements in environment protection. In the justification of the reward granted in Rio de Janeiro it was emphasized that that the way of utilization was perfect which connected ecological, social and economic functions of forests. It was also recognized that there was high engagement of the Polish Forests in forestry education and realization of many programs protecting wild species endangered by extinction. The source of the success of the Polish State Forests is their management system, based on a reliable planning and self-financing its activity. However, this unique management system is seriously at risk.
A re-attempt of destabilization of the State Forests
This time, when the nation totally criticized the idea to create a single-member company of the State Treasury from the State Forests in the year 1999 by the government of Jerzy Buzek and after a definite resistance of the society in the year 2010 against joining the State Forests into the sector of public finances by the government of Donald Tusk, the same political option, drawing conclusions from its ‘failures’, decided to repair its mistakes and effectively start the process of destabilization of the Polish State Forests. The idea is simple. The Polish State Forests, thanks to the amendment to the act about forests, are to supply a tribute of 800 million zlotys to the budget, in the years 2014 and 2015. Within next years, the fee is to be a percent of sale of wood in the stipulated amount of 120 to 150 million zlotys annually. The reason for this operation, according to the government, is obvious. The State Forests, economizing on the property of the State Treasury, should participate in budget expenditures. The government stipulates that in the years 2014 and 2015 it will assign 1300 million of the money gained from Forests for building local roads. Anticipating criticism which suggests that it will lead to the destruction of the financial system of the State Forests and it will start the process of their privatization, the Prime Minister stated that he is a supporter of including a provision in the Constitution that the Polish State Forests will not undergo privatization.
Facts proving indolence or an extreme hypocrisy of the prime minister and the government of the Civil Platform and the Polish Peasant Party
1. The Prime Minister suggests a writing in the constitution that the State Forests will not be privatized. There is a question: does the government know what the Constitution of the Polish Republic is? If it does, then why does it fail to meet its demands, like during making law…? The example here is the above-quoted project of the act amendment about forests. The authorities of the State Forests, having a set budget for the year 2014, find out during the implementation of their budget, that they will have to make a payment of 800 million zlotys to the state budget. It must be emphasized here that these 800 million zlotys are money coming from the cumulated profit during the last years, being the means of superintendence and the Forestry Fund. These means are reserves providing the functioning of deficit superintendence, they were also distributed for investments which are supposed to be realized through forests in the year 2014. According to the prime minister, the law made by him can act backwards and does not have to be supported with any economic analysis or social consultations. It is obviously inconsistent with the constitution, it seems to prove that the Constitution of the Polish Republic is not a binding document for the prime minister. So, it should be amended depending on ad hoc political needs.
2. The government says that the State Forests are managing on the property of the State Treasury and therefore, they should participate in budget expenditures. Such information was passed to the society through mass media befriended with the government. Why does the government fail to meet the truth and does not inform the society that Forests pay all binding taxes on the level of 1.5 milliard zlotys? This is the VAT tax, CIT tax, agricultural tax and a considerable forestry tax of about 150 million zlotys addressed directly to territorial self-governments. Why doesn’t the government say that within their activity the State Forests co-finance such budget unit as 23 national parks in Poland suffering from the lack of money? Why is the government silent about the fact that the Polish State Forests finance forestry education in 100 per cent?
3. The government states that in the years 2014 and 2015 it will give 1300 million zlotys to self-governments for building local roads. So, why wasn’t the government building these roads at the time of its over 6-year-old activity? Does the government know that taking away this money from the State Forests will make them unable for this activity in this sphere? State Forests have a right and in fact they participate in building local roads. They do it cheaply and well and in the agreement with territorial self-governments.
It must be clearly said that the exaction imposed on the State Forests will not save the state budget. Whereas it will destabilize the system of financing the Polish State Forests. In a short time it will appear that Polish Forests are a bankrupt and cannot fulfill their role. This fate is not difficult to predict. Similarly as shipyards, banks or hospitals – will be exposed for sale and will stop serving to the whole nation. It is terrifying what is happening in the century when the European Commission is proceeding a new forestry strategy. Instead of being a country which should be an example for Europe in the sphere of forestry economy, Poland will become an outsider repeating mistakes of ‘highly-developed’ countries. Knowing the effectiveness of the government, money taken away from the Polish State Forests will not solve the problem of district roads either. Its example can be implementing national roads and motorways, the most expensive ones in the world because of built essential acoustic screens. The government preferred to build, in most cases, unnecessary acoustic screens than local roads.
Significance of State Forests for Poland
The Association for Balanced Development of Poland often pointed to possibilities of using the Polish State Forests for balanced development of rural areas. One of these possibilities is more active inclusion of the Polish Forests to mitigation of climate changes, within the climatic-energetic packet negotiated by the government of the Civil Platform and the Polish Peasant Party, extremely harmful for the Polish economy, a climatic-energetic packet. Absorption of carbon dioxide by forests for a bigger increase of wood and bio-variety protection is the activity of Forests which should be supported by the government, like for the very Donald Tusk. This is what money of the Polish State Forests should be intended for, on the basis of which over 16 thousand workplaces should be created on rural areas.
Here it is necessary to mention that the Polish village is suffering from structural unemployment and among people who are well-educated. Its example are thousands of graduates of universities and technical schools, for whom finding work is almost impossible and who are forced to emigrate from Poland to find work. There is a possibility of employment for them in the State Forests, as well as every new position in the Forests are new workplaces for the Polish village suffering from unemployment.
Polish State Forests are a great good and a great chance for the development of rural areas. We should not allow for destroying them and we should overcome all divisions, in order to defend the Polish State Forests. The suggestion of the government about imposing fees on the Polish State Forests is destroying this unique organization in Europe and the world. The suggestion of the government is repeating the scenario of destroying Polish State Railways, shipyards, banks and army. Let’s be wise before a damage!
Prof. dr. hab. Jan Szyszko – an MP for the Sejm of the Polish Republic (Law and Justice Party); the chairman of the Association for Balanced Development of Poland; a minister of environment protection, natural resources and forestry in the government of AWS-UW; a minister of environment in the government of the Law and Justice Party; a proxy of the government for Climatic Convention UNO in the years 1999-2001, president of the 5th Conference of Parties of the Climatic Convention in the years 1999-2000.