WASHINGTON -- An American Bar Association panel is going to Poland next month to advise officials on a series of financial issues, including how to develop much needed projects through the sale of municipal bonds.
"Poland has been in the midst of making significant changes in its governmental structures," said Mark Ellis, executive director of the association's Central and East European Law Intitiative, which is co-sponsoring the venture Dec. 9-12 in Gdansk with the Solidarity Economic Foundation of Poland.
Previously, local governments were just extensions of the central Communist Party, Mr. Ellis said. Now, with the dissolution of the party, "they are in the process of creating truly independent structures in the local government area, and in doing that they have to tackle issues of public finance and taxation."
"It's going to be a very cold winter in Poland, and the first priority is feeding, clothing, and housing the population," said Stanley Glod, chairmand of the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in Washington, a consultant for the bar association.
"They are in deep trouble," he said, "but there are no spare moneys around the world to do this, so it's a case of creative financing."
Mr. Glod and Mr. Elllis said the bar association initiative was created a year ago to provide technical and legal assistance throughout Central and Eastern Europe to emerging democratic governments. Mr. Ellis said the group, among other things, has been advising Bulgaria and Albania on revising their constitutions and judiciaries.
"There seems to be a series of steps," Mr. Ellis said. First, emerging democracies want to revise their constitutions to reflect a decentralization of government, he said. "Once they have done that, the issue then is how many levels of government and how are they structured. Then you begin to move into areas of financing," an are in which the Poles have expressed particular interest.
Mr. Ellis said the group will send a handful of experts to Poland next month, but they have not been identified.
Meanwhile, an ongoing initiative to bring public finance to the Soviet Union is back on track after delays caused by the dramatic, unsuccessful attempt this summer to unseat Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, said J. Chester Johnson, president of Government Finance Associates Inc. Mr. Johnson is a consultant to Ecolink, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 to introduce American-style municipal bonds to the Soviet Union.
"We expect the financing should be completed within a matter of three trips," Mr. Johnson said about efforts to finalize the nation's first-ever municipal bond sale. The firm had hoped to sell the bonds before the end of the year, but venture will be delayed about two-and-a-half months, Mr. Johnson said.
"We're coming down to a lot of refinements," he said about demonstration projects to build a series of grain storage facilities throughout the Russian Republic and construct a hospital for AIDS patients in Moscow. Representatives of Goldman, Sachs & Co., Lehman Brothers, Salomon Brothers Inc., and Security Pacific Bank are part of the team working with the Soviet Union on the bond sales.
Mr. Gold said the decentralization of previously Communist governments will put pressure on local governments to come up with financing techniques. "It's not going to be centrally driven from Warsaw anymore," he said. "The rubber meets the road in the municipalities.
Mr. Glod and Mr. Ellis said the Poland meeting will be an informal roundtable discussion. "It's not a scenario where you want to come across doctrinaire," Mr. Glod said. "We don't want to tell them this is the only way to peel the apple."