Polish Leader Backs Early Retirement Plan in Election Gambit

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Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski announced plans to allow pension benefits after 40 years of work, countering his opponent in Sunday’s ballot who’s made lowering the retirement age the centerpiece of his campaign.

Komorowski, who opinion polls show is neck-and-neck with opposition candidate Andrzej Duda, said that “within days” he’ll introduce a bill to parliament effectively allowing Poles to retire before they turn 67. Duda has campaigned on a pledge to reverse present rules, introduced by Komorowski’s allies in government, which the challenger said will force Poles to “work until their death.”

The election has turned into a referendum over the ruling Civic Platform party’s eight-year rule, with Duda promising new government spending equivalent to 98 percent of this year’s planned budget revenue, according to employer lobby group Pracodawcy RP. The zloty is the fourth-worst performer against the euro among 24 emerging-market currencies since Duda won the first-round of elections on May 10, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s not a reversal of the previous reform but an improvement aimed at giving it a human dimension,” Irena Woycicka, an aide in Komorowski’s office, said at a news conference in Warsaw on Wednesday. “It’s another step to create solutions for those who’ve been working long and hard, like nurses.”

The cost of the proposed changes “won’t be significant,” according to Woycicka.

‘Promising Everything’

The Polish parliament agreed to raise the retirement age three years ago as the government sought to trim public debt, prompting the largest trade union Solidarity to picket the lower chamber. The Civic Platform party and its smaller coalition partner, the Polish Peasants’ Party, supported the measure, while Law & Justice voted against the bill.

Komorowski “locked himself in his palace for five years” and now he’s “promising everything” to win votes, Duda said at a televised election rally on Wednesday. “Don’t believe them when they say there’s no money” for new spending proposed during the campaign, he said.

The challenger closed in on the incumbent in the latest poll released on Wednesday, narrowing the difference to 2 percentage points. Komorowski was backed by 47 percent of respondents in the survey by Millward Brown, compared with 45 percent support for Duda, broadcaster TVN said.

The zloty weakened 0.8 percent to 4.0823 versus the euro at 7:20 p.m. in Warsaw. The yield on Poland’s 10-year bonds dropped one basis point to 2.8 percent after setting a seven-month high of 2.9 percent on May 6, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“This is a copy of a solution implemented in Germany, where it works very well,” Ernest Pytlarczyk, chief economist at MBank SA in Warsaw, said by phone on Wednesday. “I don’t expect any big fiscal impact from this proposal.”

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