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Polish ruling party promises ‘middle class for all’ post-COVID | Reuters

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party promised a middle class future for all on Saturday, putting lower taxes for most, higher healthcare spending and support for young families at the centre of its new “Polish Deal” to recover from the pandemic.

The proposals include raising the tax-free income threshold, exempting minimum wage and lower pension recipients from tax, as well as raising the limit for entering the second tax bracket.

“It’s a programme of building a middle class for all, not for the few,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, presenting the plan.

Critics said the measures would be offset by higher health insurance contributions for higher earners. Budget spending on healthcare is to rise to 6% of GDP by 2023 and 7% by 2027, the plan said, without giving a recent comparable figure.

PiS also proposed easier access to homeownership for young families and an additional childcare benefit for one- to three-year olds.

The party came to power in 2015 thanks to generous social benefit programmes and a promise to defend conservative values.

Recent polls show it still enjoys the highest support among political parties, though less than during the last election in 2019, with 35% of voters backing the party in an IBRiS poll this week.

Its support has slipped during the pandemic as the health system has struggled. New infections dropped sharply during April and the government began easing restrictions this month, with bars reopening outdoor terraces on Saturday.

The government has also faced internal problems recently, with a junior coalition party voting against legislation essential to the European Union’s recovery fund. Money from the EU is an important part of the spending in the “Polish Deal”.

“It’s a recovery plan, but it’s about recovering their electorate,” said Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University.

“They are trying to cover up, get over COVID, the pandemic, which was terrible here (...) we can go to shops, to cafes, the sun is shining, money is going to flow in abundance, we don’t remember what happened yesterday.” (Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk. Editing by Mark Potter)

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