Polish treasury defends LOT privatisation plan

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Poland's treasury ministry is preparing to submit a revised business plan for troubled flag-carrier LOT to the European Commission next month.

Treasury undersecretary Rafal Baniak disclosed, during a parliamentary exchange on 8 May, that the plan - which details specific initiatives on revenues and costs - would be put to the Commission on 20 June.

Baniak said the plan required some "clarifications" and "explanations", as parliamentarians debated a controversial proposal to allow full privatisation of LOT.

Civic Platform party member Renata Zaremba said that the change was necessary for privatisation to be "effective", stating that investors would not contribute capital without control.

"The privatisation process is not evil incarnate," she insisted. "Do not be afraid."

But Law and Justice party representative Adam Kwiatkowski said the organisation would not support the proposal, criticising the focus on privatisation as opposed to recovery.

Kwiatkowski compared those charged with monitoring LOT to children who, "while destroying toys, ask parents about new ones".

He queried various cost issues at LOT including the decision to lease Airbus aircraft - at a monthly cost of €2 million - to replace its grounded Boeing 787s, forcing the airline's own 767 pilots to "sit at home".

Baniak defended the decision, insisting that the Airbus lease was the "cheapest available option" because there were no 767s available which could be leased for a specific short period of time.

He said the treasury was treating the preparation for privatisation as "complementary" to the restructuring process and that the state assumed the two would be conducted in parallel.

Baniak reiterated that the treasury's aim was to free itself of the shareholding in LOT, stating: "This is our goal, and we're not hiding it."

He said that, should an investor emerge before the privatisation proposal becomes law, the treasury would offer a minority shareholding, with a view to offering a majority once the legislation is passed.