WARSAW, DEC. 5 -- The Polish government announced today that a radical increase in basic food prices planned for next year would be significantly cut back and other economic changes would be slowed because the program failed to win majority support in a national referendum last Sunday.
In an address to the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Zbigniew Messner said the planned 110 percent average rise in food prices would now be phased in over a three-year period while official subsidies are maintained.
Plans for reducing business taxes, ending the rationing of meat, cutting the government budget deficit and curtailing central distribution of raw materials would also be slowed or shelved in 1988, he said.
Messner insisted that the communist leadership of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski still intends to implement far-reaching economic and political reforms in Poland and considers the results of the referendum as a mandate.
According to official results, between 44 and 46 percent of eligible voters favored the plans, while about one-fifth were opposed and nearly one-third of the electorate did not vote.
The prime minister said, however, that the authorities "must understand the doubts and fears" about the changes shown by the referendum and added that "each retreat" from policy "has its price."
He also indicated that officials now believe the original reform program included too many abstract economic goals without focusing on popular concerns such as housing, health care and better services.
The statement, which represents the first formal response of Jaruzelski's leadership to the referendum results, suggested that revisions of the economic and political initiative are still being debated and would not be limited to reducing the price hikes that have sparked widespread public discontent and panic shopping.
Government officials have singled out public resistance to the price increases as a key reason for the failure of the propositions. Messner made it clear, however, that scaling back the price hikes would involve a slowing of the overall program to balance Poland's shortage-plagued domestic market and make state-run industries efficient.
The prime minister did not mention Jaruzelski's political reform program, which envisions a decentralization of state power and a modest expansion of citizens' rights. Possible changes in that platform are due to be considered next week, however, at a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Polish United Workers' Party.
Party officials said the voting results and modification of the economic policy might encourage hard-liners seeking to block Jaruzelski's political initiative. "Sure the conservatives are happy," said Jerzy Wiatr, a political science professor and Central Committee member. "They were afraid massive support in the referendum would solidify the party behind the reform."
"The question now," Wiatr said in an interview, "is how far and how fast we will be able to move in expanding the legal ground of the moderate opposition in Poland."
Following its discussions today, the parliament, or Sejm, which is dominated by the communist leadership, adopted a resolution calling not only for increased "effectiveness of activity of democratic institutions," but also for the consolidation of "moral order, discipline and legal order."
Messner and other party and government officials sometimes appeared on the defensive today as they strove in speeches in the Sejm to rebut the notion that voters had rejected the program or expressed a lack of confidence in Jaruzelski's government.
The prime minister suggested that some Poles did not vote because they decided to "rely upon the will of those who went to the polls" or because they were unhappy with deteriorating market conditions. Others, he said, voted "no" because of "fears of deteriorating living standards, of too big a price . . . for reform."
Messner said authorities would press ahead with increases of 150 to 200 percent in rents, utilities, coal and other fuels and transportation.
He did not give any figures for food prices or overall inflation, which authorities previously projected at 40 percent in 1988. Instead, he indicated that the price increases would now be negotiated with official trade unions.