The Polish finance minister has sharply criticized suggestions in the West that further financial assistance to Poland should be tied to the introduction of major economic reforms.
In an interview here today, the official, Marian Krzak, insisted that Poland is committed to fully implementing concessions granted to striking workers following two months of labor unrest. But he added that, in introducing reforms, it was important that the Polish authorities should not be perceived as acting under Western pressure.
Krzak's remakrs follow a debate among Western experts about whether political conditions should be attached to further credits to Poland. The view of most Western governments, including the Carter administration, has been that Poland should be left to solve its economic problems in its own way.
This policy has, however, been challenged by some commentators, including former ambassador to Poland Richard Davies. Writing in The Washington Post on Sept. 16, Davies called for specific economic reforms to be introduced by the communist authorities as the price for the extension of new U.S. government credits.
Davies' argument was that, without such reforms, Western creditors making additional loans to Poland would merely be throwing good money after bad. He cited the opinions of Western-based economists who claimed that the large-scale injection of foreign funds had been used by the Polish government in the past as a substitute for reforms.
Questioned about Davies' article, Krzak said he was "amazed" and "very taken aback. We really know better than this gentleman what sort of reforms we need . . . If we accepted his advice it would look as though we were acting under Western pressure."
In explaining the Polish position Krzak did not specifically mention Soviet reservations about recent developments in Poland, including the agreement to establish independent trade unions. But the thrust of his remarks suggested that Poland's already complicated relations with Moscow would only be damaged further if the United States attempted to influence the course of the reforms being preparedby the communist authorities.
"The Hungarians are carrying out reforms and haven't experienced a negative reaction," he said. "However, if Mr. Davies keeps poking his nose into our business, then there could be problems. He is not behaving as a politician. That of course, is my personal view, and I shall tell him it when we next meet."
Davies was U.S. ambassador to Poland from 1973 to 1978, but has retired from the Foreign Service.
Foreign credits have been an important component in Poland's economic development plans for the past decade. In a recent television interview, Krzak admitted for the first time to the Polish public that the country's indebtedness to the West stood at approximately $20 billion -- the largest of any Soviet Bloc nation.
The debts were incurred largely for the import of Western technology. It was originally hoped that they would be paid for by an increase in the export of manufactured goods -- such as steel, ships, and cars -- to the West. But this strategy is now widely criticized as having failed partly because of the recession in the West, but largely because of Poland's rigid system of central planning, which directed investments into unprofitable areas. s
Projects based on foreign technology have run into long delays. This has raised costs and reduced the possibility of them being profitable. Meanwhile, labor productivity has remained low and huge amounts of imported raw materials are used to produce an inferior product.
Krzak said that, as a result of the latest crisis, Poland had no option but to introduce reforms including a greater use of free market mechanisms.
"It's not a question of choosing whether or not to implement reforms, as some people seem to think," he said. "If we don't do so, we might as well surrender and give up entirely. Without reforms, it will be totally impossible to run this country."
Among reforms now being considered are:
Greater powers and responsibility for individual plants, implying less day-to-day interference by the central planning commission in Warsaw.
The cutback of unproductive investments, trimming the state budget, and new priority for the development of agriculture, housing, and consumer goods.
Investigation of ways of improving meat supply by increasing imports in the short term and possibly introducing a ration system as demanded by the strikers.
Incentives for export-oriented industries and greater use of price mechanism to establish priorities.