Two senior Polish Finance Ministry officials flew to Washington today to conduct exploratory talks about the possibility of Poland rejoining the International Monetary Fund.
The visit follows mounting speculation here that Poland soon may apply formally for readmission to the fund as part of a package of measures designed to overcome the country's economic crisis. Poland was one of the founders of the fund in 1944, but was forced to give up its membership in 1950 as a result of Soviet pressure at the height of the Cold War.
In Washington, an IMF spokesman confirmed that talks would begin Tuesday with Polish officials but declined to discuss their specific nature, Reuter reported.
Meanwhile, leaders of the independent Solidarity trade union federation, meeting in Gdansk, proposed that detailed negotiations with the government begin by the end of this week. They proposed six main areas of discussion, including the creation of an independent social council to supervise the economy, the union's access to the mass media, economic reform and new democratic procedures for election of provincial councils.
The proposal was contained in a resolution passed by Solidarity's presidium and forwarded to the government. It followed the domestic summit meeting last week between Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, the premier, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, and the Roman Catholic primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp.
A lively debate has been in progress here over the past few months between supporters and opponents of Polish membership in the IMF. Most professional economists believe that membership would benefit Poland by helping it to regain credibility with the international financial community and by providing a new source of much-needed long-term credits.
Hard-line Communist Party politicians, however, have argued that membership would further increase Poland's economic dependence on the West. They also have criticized IMF rules requiring member countries to disclose detailed economic information traditionally kept secret by Eastern European countries.
A good deal of secrecy has surrounded Poland's moves to rejoin the IMF, but officials said privately that some form of public announcement could be expected following the Polish delegation's talks in Washington. The delegation's leader is the head of the foreign department of the Finance Ministry, Zbigniew Karcz, who has been closely involved in the renegotiation of Poland's estimated $27 billion debt with the West.
A senior Finance Ministry official, however, cautioned that the process of applying for IMF membership was a lengthy one that could take several months.
Western bankers have long assumed that Poland would have to obtain at least tacit approval from Moscow if it wished to join a financial institution so identified with the capitalist world as the IMF. Approval for Poland, however, may now be easier to obtain following Hungary's surprise application last week to join both the IMF and the World Bank.
Hungarian banking officials have attempted to play down the political importance of the move and have denied that it was intended to create a precedent for Poland. Even so, it will now clearly be more difficult for the Kremlin to oppose Poland's membership.
At present, Romania is the only Soviet Bloc country to belong to the IMF -- and its admission in 1972 was seen as a reflection of President Nicolae Ceausescu's independent foreign policy. Nonaligned but communist Yugoslavia is also a member and hosted an IMF-World Bank annual meeting in 1979.
Many of the domestic obstacles to Poland's membership in the fund have crumbled during the last few weeks. Last month, the Polish Finance Ministry began publishing detailed statistics on the country's balance of payments, thus fulfilling one of the preconditions for IMF membership.
During a speech to the national assembly last week, Jaruzelski publicly hinted for the first time that a formal application to join the IMF may be on the way. He said Poland was looking for various ways of improving its balance of payments, including the possibility of "cooperating" with international financial institutions.
Two days before Jaruzelski's speech, however, the Army newspaper, Zolnierz Wolnosci, which traditionally reflects hard-line opinion, said the IMF provided a classic example of how the usury of international capitalist financiers "eventually ruins its victims" by leading to their economic and political dependence.
United Press International reported the following from Warsaw:
Solidarity reached agreement with the government today to end a major strike in the provincial capital of Zielona Gora, but a last-minute dispute with government officials prolonged the walkout.
The strikers had won their chief demand for the removal of a state farm manager whom they accused of antiunion activities, union spokesmen said, but government administrators in Warsaw apparently overruled the accord. About 200,000 workers and farmers have been on a wildcat strike in the province along the East German border for almost three weeks.