Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on Economic Assistance for Poland and Hungary
After Poland formed a new coalition government in August led by the noncommunist Catholic intellectual and longtime Solidarity adviser Tadeusz Mazowiecki, factions within the Bush administration hotly debated an aid policy to help stabilize the faltering Polish economy. The new government faced a foreign debt of $40 billion and hyperinflation running at nearly 1,000 percent. The rising budget deficit in the US similarly had become a major political and economic concern, as fears of recession spread. Bush especially was hampered with regard to new spending initiatives due to a promise he had made during his election campaign never to raise taxes. The US Congress, controlled by the Democratic Party, proposed greater amounts of aid to Poland than Bush had offered and charged the administration with failing to provide the support necessary to insure that the fragile Polish government would survive. In response to a Polish restructuring plan that called on the US to put together a $1 billion currency stabilization fund with grants and loans from Western countries, the Bush administration—spurred on by the competing congressional proposals—offered Poland a $200 million grant, pending approval by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the complete plan, as indicated in the following statement, and coordinated efforts at raising the additional 80 percent from European countries. By January 1, 1990, the $1 billion was raised and Poland’s economic restructuring program began.
Marlin Fitzwater, "Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on Economic Assistance for Poland and Hungary," speech, Washington, D.C., October 4, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).
The new Polish Government under Prime Minister Mazowiecki has a chance to consolidate the public trust that is needed for the difficult economic steps ahead, but it faces major economic problems.
There is no disagreement that both Poland and Hungary need, and will have, strong U.S. support. There is no disagreement that the U.S. needs to play a leading role in developing a concerted Western approach to Poland's economic recovery. The question is how best to achieve our goal. We believe, as do our Western economic partners, that Poland can best go forward by reforming its economy and becoming creditworthy again by reaching early agreement with the IMF on an economic reform plan....
The administration had a series of meetings last week with key ministers in the new Polish Government and reviewed the outlines of their economic reform program. It is an ambitious and bold plan, calling for radical economic reform and rapid movement toward agreement with the IMF. An integral part of the plan is an urgent request for Western economic assistance in helping to stabilize the Polish economy as reforms are implemented. In the context of an agreement with the IMF, the Poles seek, in addition to IMF and World Bank support, $1 billion in stabilization funds from the Western industrialized countries.
In response to Poland's request, the President has decided on two major new steps. He will ask Congress to approve a $200 million grant for stabilization purposes, which would be the U.S. contribution to the $1 billion in Western assistance the Poles have requested. The grant would be contingent upon conclusion of an IMF agreement, and upon the recommendations of an experts mission that the President will send to Poland soon....
Finally, in order to continue the dialog with Poland's leaders that he began in July, the President is inviting President Jaruzelski and Prime Minister Mazowiecki to visit Washington at times convenient for each of them.
These are steps the administration has taken and will be taking in support of democratic change in Poland and Hungary: economic assistance conditioned upon real progress toward reform, business and technical assistance, the opening of investment and trade opportunities, and concerted Western action in conjunction with other industrialized democracies and the international financial institutions.