Prime Ministers About Managing the State
How Do You Understand the Notion of the State as a Form of Organisation of Society?
Polish state in 1989 was completely different than today. The program for us regarded the political system transformation, which covered three large fields. It was democratisation of state, economic transformation and reorientation of foreign policy. Taking the Office in the Council of Ministers I was aware of the fact, that in all of those fields we had to act assertively but carefully. I did not have orientation in which areas the state is strong and in which weak, because what it was strong in was about to be completely reformed. It was meant to be the state for citizens, not state above the citizens. On the other hand, I believed that after so many years of non-sovereign state the existence of strong state and state able to act is very important.
I said already in my first expose´ in the Parliament, that I wanted to create a government capable of acting. Previous attempts proved, that Solidarity needed to have their voice and only then, when they started assuming responsibility, the government would be able to act. At the same time in the existing geopolitical situation all political forces represented in the Parliament had to be mobilised. One may say, that in relation to the state it was changing the essence of that state and at the same time providing it with capability to act. Those two things had to be reconciled.
How Did You Realise the Function of Planning in State Management in Practice?
The basic part of the plan I was going to realise was of course the government programme included in my expose´. Planning, planning intentions were presented to the Parliament and society in my subsequent public speeches when I was the Prime Minister.
I believed that ministers should be responsible in decision making, feel selfresponsibility. I assumed, that I would not interfere with their actions, but of course I kept coordinating and managerial function. I think, that counting on ministers' constitutional responsibility was a good form of governing.
Council of Ministers meetings took place, where I gave each member a vast possibility to speak. I was criticised that the Council of Ministers meetings took too long. But it was a special time and Council of Ministers meetings had to play a special role. Most of all, they had to integrate us around the goals in front of us. They had to make us realise that the government as a whole was responsible for its plans and governance. In normal conditions the meetings should be shorter, more efficient. But let me repeat—it was a special time.
Of course planning function was supported with various organs of Council of Ministers, like Economic Committee led by Leszek Balcerowicz, who carried out the reform of economy. That Committee had a bit of tendency to alienate, but decisions it prepared were accepted during Council of Ministers. An important element of this breakthrough period was to restore international relations, that is why my contacts with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, were particularly frequent. A lot was going on then in the foreign policy. We had to be very active in foreign policy issues and so we were. Reforming the changes in character of the state required also my close cooperation with Minister of Internal Affairs, Krzysztof Kozłowski.
I can say, that basically all of our decisions were in some way difficult; in particular closing the budget and budget changes, new economic Acts, political issues—very difficult from the very start.
I remember that such problem was the issue of refugees from East Germany to Poland. Under agreement between governments of Polish People's Republic and East Germany we were obliged to send them back. However, we knew what they would have been threatened with and from the start we have made a decision not to do it. It was necessary to adopt a resolution of the Council of Ministers, which indicated that above international agreements between Poland and East Germany there were human rights pacts signed by Poland. Council of Ministers made such decision.
Another great decision-making problem was the local government reform. Our assumption was that both reformed new government administration and local government administration formed from the scratch would not become controversial from the very beginning, but cooperated. It all had to be prepared.
There were lots and lots of such general problems and dilemmas. In economic sphere, from the beginning we changed the detailed planning from the previous system to strategic one.
How Do You Evaluate State Organisation Capabilities in Practice?
I think, that the actual structure of the state is good. I used to be a member of Constitution Commission, which adopted the principles of division of authority and competences. I have to say, that I do not agree with criticism, that Polish Constitution causes conflict between President and Prime Minister. Democratic system benefited and benefits from maintaining a balance in executive authority. It all depends from people. If people do not want to cooperate, then no constitutional principle would solve it.
But I notice something, that I call spontaneous growth of bureaucracy. Therefore, new structures, committees and other state agencies are formed or existing ones expanded. It happened in other states, the same happens here, too. It is particularly visible on the example of various institutions and the departments responsible for internal security. There are a lot of these. One should do something with them, unify them. The problem is also the fact, that some institutions fully passed the test,
e.g. Constitutional Tribunal, and others have been chronically politically deformed, like National Broadcasting Council. Here I am dissatisfied. However, I do not blame here the shape of institutions, but the specificity of political life, where not all of the constitutional principles are fully obeyed.
Which Elements Do You See as the Most Difficult in State Management Process?
In general, governing a state by Prime Minister is a difficult task. It is his great role, which cannot be seen only in some formal framework. It depends from authority, ideas, assertiveness, motivating skills, which the Prime Minister as a leader has.
In my day, the function of Prime Minister was strengthened historically—with the need of changes. Today this function is also strengthened by law. I think, that a great problem is also reconciling the social expectations with what the government is realising—or not—in practice.
We have also had ministers from Polish United Worker's Party. Many difficulties, or even deliberate disloyal actions toward the government occurred, like destroying files in Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was happening without my knowledge or agreement. When I learned about it, I forbade such practices, but as we know, it has lasted for some time.
The majority of my government was self-motivated to act and infected others with it. It was about a great change in political system. It motivated people even from previous apparatus of state service, who understood, that the state should be transformed. Those, who did not understand it, were dismissed. Motivation was really very deep. It was not about motivation to win the election, but motivation to change Poland. And this motivation was really visible.
Today Prime Minister needs to see both. He must act in such a way to realise ideological goals and at the same time to win the next election. It is a normal situation.
How Can You Evaluate the Degree of Realisation of Own Planned Actions in Relation to Actually Undertaken Actions?
Actions taken by my government were huge in all fields. I think, that the degree of realisation of those changes was really big. They regarded not some aspects, but the whole state. There was not a department, where changes were not necessary. They took place everywhere. In science, education—at least in the scope of changes in teaching of modern history. We had to learn at least to support culture under free market economy already in construction. It was necessary to change the enterprises directors and then privatise those enterprises. For that purpose a special department for ownership transformations was appointed.
We felt the resistance of managers of various organisation units and directors of state enterprises, who believed, that they have survived many reforms, so they would survive those too. Maybe, if they had set out earlier to the transformations, they would have had been less painful. The reform of local government was certainly a success.
In my governance the voivodship's were subject to me, even though the director of Council of Ministers Office in fact dealt with it. Several times I organised a conference with voivodes. I think, that it was some kind of management tool, that the Prime Minister could use. Most of all it was necessary to make changes also at the level of voivodships, which was accomplished.
We have also established the National School of Public Administration and counted largely on building a truly professional civil service. The fact, that throughout 20 something years the civil service was so much tampered with and it is not implemented, fixed and protected in sufficiently large scope, I see as a serious and big drawback. We then were doing it with a vision of the future.
What Kind of Power and Management Capabilities Does the Prime Minister Have in Practice?
In Poland the position of Prime Minister was strengthened and thus we went more in the direction of the chancellor model. However, President comes from the general election, so his position is more stable than of president elected in typical chancellor model (like e.g. in Germany). I think that those authorities of Prime Minister are sufficient and good. This is our well-established way and in my opinion there is no need to make changes in this area. The problem is not in the very model of executive power, but in the political life. It needs to be understood, that the spirit of the Constitution requires supremacy of state interest over party interest. This should be pursued and respected. The balance that the Constitution provides is nothing wrong. Everywhere around Poland, where countries have been liberating from communism and presidential governance has been introduced—the oligarch system was formed to a large extent.
I think that strengthening the role of financial markets in recent times certainly
requires reflection on how the government can maintain certain control or influence on them and to what extent it must reckon them. It is the government, who has to govern, and the public opinion needs to have influence on those processes—it is very important. Government in democratic system needs to reckon with public opinion and it cannot be done only once in a blue moon. However, current mediatisation of politics, where important is not what is really important, but what can be really publicised, poses new challenges before the governors. It is not good, when one tends to acquire popularity at the expense of decisions, which are necessary for development and common good.