President Bush took another step Monday toward beefing up U.S. aid to the new non-Communist government in Poland by announcing that a special committee headed by three Cabinet members will visit Warsaw to determine how the United States can best provide agricultural and business management assistance to Poland.
Under continuing pressure from Congress to increase its $427-million assistance package for Poland, the Bush Administration is hopeful that it can cultivate private sector investments and joint ventures from the U.S. business community that would help Poland make the difficult adjustment to a market economy.
The President announced the formation of the committee at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden at which he saluted the political reforms in Poland.
“Historic political changes are leading to dramatic economic reforms, building new foundations of hope and prosperity, opening new boundaries of market and mind,” Bush said.
The President said the committee will “recommend to me how the economic support we will extend can best be utilized. It will focus on economic sectors where U.S. expertise and cooperation can indeed make a difference, such as agriculture and business management and financial services.”
The committee, which will visit Poland from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2, will be headed by Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher, Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter and Labor Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole. Others on the panel will include Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, Michael Boskin, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and several business leaders and academic economists.
Ever since Poland began its shift last spring toward greater democracy and a free-enterprise economy, Bush has been pledging assistance while fending off congressional efforts to push him to do more. Programs recommended by Democrats would more than double the amount of U.S. aid.
Such political pressure is likely to increase next month when Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity trade union that spearheaded dramatic shifts in Poland, visits Bush in the United States. The specific schedule is uncertain, but White House officials are considering a joint appearance for Bush and Walesa in a Polish-American community.
The White House is trying to balance the pressing needs of Poland and domestic pressure to intervene against its desire to encourage economic reform and avoid pumping too much money into a sagging Polish economy before economic institutions there are able to handle it.
“The fact of life is the Poles have to restructure their economy or nothing will happen,” a White House official said, referring to the Administration’s demand that Poland make specific moves to dismantle the state-run economy--a step that could lead to increased unemployment. “They’re moving pretty fast, but there’s not much we can do until they do the basics.”
At the same time, the pressure is unrelenting within Poland, where “addressing these problems is politically unpopular and socially stressful,” said Charles Movit of PlanEcon Inc., an economic consulting firm.
In a telephone interview, Mosbacher said the addition of business executives to the panel can help the reform process.
He said the Poles are trying to privatize their system to become competitive. “That’s tough, and we want to help them do it in whatever way we can,” he said. “It’s a long journey for us to help Poland get where it’s got to be, and this is a step.”
A Mosbacher aide said the business executives will seek to identify concrete business opportunities in Poland.
The President won a pat on the back from one of the leaders of the move to increase funding for Poland, Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who said U.S. aid for Poland was “a fast-moving situation that needs Cabinet-level attention.”
Times staff writer Norman Kempster contributed to this story.