Based on 1932 book by T. Dołęga-Mostowicz, Career of Nikoś Dyzma was a mediocre movie which quite rightly described dealings at an intersection of Polish business and politics in the last two decades. It tells a story of Nikoś, a simple gravedigger who by an accident steps into the Big World of money and power and slowly climbs up the ladder, being just a beneficiary of many misunderstandings around him. Breaking point of his career happens, when on an informal governmental meeting he literally recites a plan (cooked up by his friend Romek – piggish, but very smart self-made entrepreneur) of saving Polish sugar industry, having problems with sales due to the falling international prices. Sounds familiar?
The idea is rather simple: the government will buy out all the sugar trough a special purpose agency, which will simply keep it on a side until the prices will bounce back. Sugar plants have no other choice, same goes for the Ministry responsible (if sugar producers will go bankrupt, all the expenses will fall on the State’s Treasury). How long would the SPA have to storage all the commodity? Doesn’t matter: if the better years won’t come soon enough, the problem will fall on the next government anyway.
Friday’s speech of PM Beata Szydło, when she announced handing over a special gift to Kompania Węglowa and Katowicki Holding Węglowy appears like taken right from the above mentioned movie. Szydło informed all the miners gathered in Libiąż that she ordered Material Reserves Agency (ARM) to buy from the mines all the unsold coal stocked on the piles (shrinking in the last months, but still of great size), the symbol of crisis in Polish coal.
The main task of the Agency is to maintain strategic reserves (storage, changing and exchanging and preservation of maintained strategic reserves), mainly crude oil and petroleum products. The current CEO of ARM Janusz Turek most probably will not follow Nikoś brilliant career, since he has his roots in PSL.
Funds received from this transaction will cover the ongoing expenses (200m PLN each month just for the salaries in Kompania Węglowa). By average, Polish coal mining sector was bringing 150m PLN of loss every month. If ARM will purchase from KW and KHW just a half of the unsold coal (3m Mt) for a price from October (218.97 PLN/Mt), the money will help the industry to stay just above the profitability line for 4-5 months.
In the movie, summing up his ingenious plan Romek replies to Nikoś, asking why nobody so far came up with the idea: “They would, if they would have a f*** brain, instead of that f*** Styrofoam” (a reference to the post-Solidarity political class, who spend their youth striking in the Communist era; Styrofoam was then often used as a rough version of bed). Overlooking the questionable economy ethics behind this Beata Szydło’s decision, it has to be said: someone in her cabinet has a brain and thought this trough. Miners are joyful, society won’t notice and the politicians have one problem off their plate for the next few months.