Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Poland: Dire state of economy diversion tactics?

 Retail sales in Poland slumped for a second straight month in February, at the fastest pace since 2020 as inflation continued to squeeze spending power, Statistics Poland reported on Tuesday.

Last month, sales in the sector dropped by 5% year-on-year, far more than an expected 1.4% decline, the figures showed. On a monthly basis, retail saw a 3.6% decline from January.

“Retail sales of goods, with calculations based on data from stores with at least 10 employees, decreased by 5% in February. At the same time, in January this fall was 0.3%,” the report said.

Economists attribute the weak turnover to persisting pressure on households’ real disposable incomes and purchasing power, caused by spiraling inflation.

Sales of furniture and household appliances slid 10.3% in February, while retail sales of other durable goods contracted by 12.3%.

Purchases of food in Poland fell for a second month in a row, losing 4.6% in February compared to the same period last year. The data also showed a 26.2% annual decline in fuel sales.

Poland’s inflation is at its highest since 1996. Consumer prices rose 18.4% year-on-year in February, up from the 16.6% the previous month, according to the latest data from Statistics Poland.

Annual inflation in Poland accelerated in February to the highest level since 1996, data released by the national statistics service GUS showed on Wednesday.

Consumer prices rose 18.4% year-on-year in February, up from the 16.6% recorded in the previous month.

Economists are predicting that the latest surge will mark the peak of the current cycle, but Polish consumers say they are struggling to pay household bills and buy basic groceries, with price growth at its steepest in more than a quarter of a century.

The figures show that the February reading surpassed the previous high of 17.9% recorded in October 2022, with food prices, transport and energy costs rising fastest last month.

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages saw the most significant annual increase in February of up to 27%, compared to 26.6% in January. Housing-related rates jumped 22.7% while the cost of heating fuel, water and central heating increased, the report said.

The Polish economy slowed in 2022 amid soaring inflation and a plunge in consumer spending brought on by the conflict in neighboring Ukraine and the impact of sanctions on Russia.

Poland may end up “joining” the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine should the latter fail to protect its “independence,” the Polish ambassador to France, Jan Emeryk Rosciszewski, has said. The senior diplomat made the remarks on Saturday while speaking live to the broadcaster LCI. 

Rosciszewski squarely blamed the hostilities, which have been ongoing for over a year already, on Moscow, stating that it was “not NATO, not Poland, not France and not Slovakia” that was ramping up international tensions, but Russia. According to the diplomat, the situation now is “either Ukraine will successfully defend its independence, or we will be forced, in any case, to join this conflict.”  

“Otherwise, our principal values, which are the basis of our civilization and our culture, will be in fundamental danger, so we will have no choice,” Rosciszewski stated.

The hawkish statement promptly made headlines in international media, prompting the Polish mission in France to elaborate further on the remarks made by its head. According to a message released by the embassy on Sunday, Rosciszewski’s comments were not actually an admission that Warsaw was ready to go to war with Russia, but merely a “warning” and a pledge to continue supporting Kiev.

“Listening carefully to the entire conversation allows us to understand that there was no announcement of Poland’s direct involvement in the conflict, but only a warning against the consequences of Ukraine's defeat – the possibility of Russia attacking or dragging into the war more Central European countries –  the Baltic states and Poland,” the statement reads. The embassy also condemned the purportedly “sensational” reporting on the bombshell interview, suggesting that some unidentified media outlets may have acted in “ill will.”

The remarks received a poor reception in Moscow, with a top Russian senator, Alexey Pushkov, warning Warsaw of the potential consequences and questioning its presumed resolve to fight Russia on its own.

“A very presumptuous statement by the Polish ambassador in Paris. For the first time, an official representative of Poland said what its leaders have long had on their minds. However, all the ‘courage’ of the Poles is based on the support of the United States. Is Warsaw sure that Washington is ready to fight?” Pushkov said in a Telegram post.

Poland has been among the most active supporters of Kiev in the hostilities against Russia, sending in assorted military hardware, including tanks and artillery pieces, to prop up Ukraine. Apart from that, Polish mercenaries have been directly involved in the conflict in significant numbers, according to Moscow. Warsaw has also announced a major military buildup of its own, seeking to greatly expand the ranks of its armed forces and procure large amounts of modern military hardware from overseas.

RT 3/23

Dave C.

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