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Poles Scramble for Food Ahead of Hikes

From Reuters

Poles fought to buy meat and besieged other food stores today, one day before massive price increases meant to launch a Western-style market system.

“Don’t take pictures! It’s already humiliating enough to line up like this,” people shouted at a news photographer as they fought to get into a bare-shelved state meat store in Warsaw that had only sausage to sell.

Prices of meat and most foods are expected to soar 200% to 300% on Tuesday when meat rationing ends after seven years and prices are partly freed under a government “marketization” plan widely condemned as ill-prepared and lacking sufficient compensation.

In Parliament, outgoing Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski and Finance Minister Andrzej Wroblewski faced impeachment threats for triggering 100% inflation, a huge budget deficit, collapse of the currency and massive food shortages.

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Communist parliamentary deputies approved Rakowski’s proposal for Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak to be the party’s candidate to succeed him as prime minister following Rakowski’s election as Communist Party leader Saturday.

Rakowski’s 10 months as prime minister have seen a rapid deterioration of the economy on all fronts. Industrial output has fallen and Poland is currently accepting emergency food donations from the European Community.

Tuesday’s food price rises will plunge 60% of Poland’s 38 million inhabitants below the poverty line, according to some Communist Party officials who oppose the government’s plan.

Government, Solidarity and other opposition leaders have forecast a possible public upheaval that could sweep away an agreement on political and economic reforms that has set Poland on the path to parliamentary democracy.

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