he Polish government has frozen all private bank accounts containing hard, or Western, currency, a move that Western analysts believe could make it very hard for the Polish regime to rebuild confidence in the nation's banking system if and when stability is restored there.
According to reports reaching the West, a government decree published yesterday suspends all cash withdrawals from hard-currency accounts as well as execution of any foreign remittances or other orders requiring foreign exchange.
The move is viewed as one of the most significant technical steps taken thus far.
During recent periods of crisis, the hard-currency accounts in the banks have been sacrosanct. Restrictions had been placed on how much could be withdrawn in a single day, but sources say this is the first total freeze.
The Polish authorities presumably are trying to prevent a run on the banks. But the suspension of access is viewed in Western Europe as something that is not likely to be forgotten by wary savers, even if calm is restored. Poland is especially dependent on Western currencies to pay off its huge interest debt to the West and to pay for much of the industrial equipment it imports.
The move also could have an important effect on thousands of Polish Americans who receive Social Security checks from Washington every month but who have moved to Poland for an inexpensive retirement in recent years. Four years ago it was estimated that 4,500 Social Security and other retirement checks passed through the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw every month en route to retired people living in Poland.