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June 23, 2017

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Poland's PM unveils 42-billion-euro stimulus plan to boost growth, jobs

WARSAW -- Poland's centrist Prime Minister Donald Tusk unveiled Friday over 42 billion euros (US$55 billion) in short-term stimulus to sustain growth and jobs ahead of a confidence vote he called amid a surge in popularity for the opposition as the economy slows.

"Our priority is to sustain growth, even if it is slower, at all costs and to protect jobs," Tusk told parliament as a fresh opinion survey by the TSN Polska pollsters showed his popularity has plummeted to 26 percent, with his negative rating at 44 percent.

While Poland's economy has so far mostly dodged the crisis affecting its eurozone neighbors, growth is set to slow to 2.5 percent this year from 4.3 percent last year.

The government expects growth to slow further to 2.3 percent next year, and the jobless rate stands at 12.5 percent in the nation of 38.2 million.

Topping the list of Tusk's proposed investments is 60 billion zloty (US$19 billion) by state-owned energy companies into projects including in new coal-fired power plants, a LNG terminal and pipelines.

He also announced the creation of a 40 billion zloty investment fund, to be backed by shares in state-owned companies, that would seek to stimulate job creation through to 2015.

Tusk also pledged 40 billion zlotys over three years to update motorways. Another 30 billion euros will be poured into railway modernization though 2015.

With Poland suffering from one of the world's lowest birthrates, Tusk also vowed to boost maternity leave, offering new mothers one year off work at 80 percent of their salary, more public day care centers and preschools.

Tusk's move comes one year into his second consecutive term, as a slowing economy and a series of missteps have seen public support for his center-right coalition wane to the advantage of the right-wing opposition.

"This program demands a clear parliamentary majority. We want to confirm that our legislative mandate is still strong," he told the 460-seat chamber, where his center-right coalition holds a slim four-seat majority.

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