In a bitter attack on trade sanctions put in place following imposition of martial law here, Poland today accused Western nations of using "unprecedented economic aggression" to push the Polish economy toward collapse.
The official Polish news agency, PAP, said Western sanctions were largely to blame for an economy plagued with a 14 percent drop in industrial production since 1979, falling exports, severely curtailed imports of raw materials and a steep decline in the nation's standard of living.
The attack coincided with the opening of talks in Vienna between Polish banking officials and representatives of Western creditor banks to discuss the repayment of $8 billion in commercial debts due this year. Poland's total indebtedness to the West is estimated at $25.9 billion, with the annual servicing cost about $3.5 billion.
PAP singled out the Western ban on new credits as the most crippling aspect of the sanctions--imposed to protest the Dec. 13 military crackdown--because it effectively blocked the import of machinery, raw materials and feed grains needed to earn hard currency.
Through this policy, PAP said, "creditors consciously created a situation in which it becomes impossible to repay our debts on time." Western economic analysts in Warsaw said Poland was likely to ask bankers in Vienna to reschedule the interest on this year's debts, but that the bankers--while sympathetic--probably would do no more than defer payment on the principal.
Poland has been linking its economic problems with the Western sanctions almost as long as they have been imposed, but today's attack reflected the growing desperation over the condition of the economy..
Supply of processed feed for livestock was down by 55.3 percent. Polish officials say the sanctions have made it impossible for Poland to get the grain needed to keep livestock and poultry at normal production levels. This has led to distress slaughtering that could mean meat shortages next year.
Although the PAP dispatch makes clear that mismanagement in the 1970s brought on the severe economic problems of today, the news agency blamed the West for "conscious actions aimed to render Poland's economy strongly dependent on economic bonds with the West."
The decline in the economy presents a particular dilemma for Poland's martial-law authorities, who in part defended the crackdown as necessary to stop the disintegration of the economy. Whereas strikes by the now suspended Solidarity independent trade union were once blamed for the country's sluggish production, the reasons given today are the lack of hard-currency credits and the NATO decision Jan. 12 to halt import credits.
The Vienna talks are the first between Poland and its Western creditors since April, when an agreement was signed to defer most payments.