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Ex-PM Belka proposed as Polish central bank head

Ex-PM Belka proposed as Polish central bank head

A widely respected former Polish prime minister, Marek Belka, was nominated Thursday to head the country's central bank _ six weeks after its former chief was killed in a plane crash along with the nation's president.
Belka, 58, an economist who also has served as a finance minister in the past, currently works for the International Monetary Fund. Experts believe the highly regarded Belka will easily be confirmed by parliament, which will vote on the nomination in about two weeks.
He is the only candidate for the job, and acting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and the IMF said Belka has accepted the nomination. With that job, he would be required to relinquish his responsibilities as the IMF's director of the European Department.
Governors of the National Bank of Poland serve six-year terms, meaning that Belka would oversee the bank as the country moves toward adopting the euro. Despite the turbulence in the euro zone, the government says it still hopes to swap the Polish zloty for the euro _ perhaps around 2015.
Economists enthusiastically welcomed the nomination, pointing to Belka's reputation as one of Poland's leading economists and his significant international experience.
Although Belka served in center-left governments, he has been removed for years from day-to-day political wrangling, and is viewed as a nonpartisan pick.
"Everyone is happy," said Mateusz Szczurek, chief economist with ING Bank Slaski in Warsaw. "If you look at his professional activity in the past 13 years, it's hard to find anyone more qualified."
Belka has worked recently as the European director for the IMF, experience which "could not be more valuable ... especially now, with the euro zone crisis looming still, and uncertain, turbulent times in national markets ahead," Szczurek said.
Belka was nominated by Komorowski, the parliament speaker who stepped in as acting president after the April 10 plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others _ including the last central bank governor, Slawomir Skrzypek.
The nomination requires ratification by the lower house of parliament, which will vote on it after it convenes on June 9, the parliament press office said.
Komorowski said that having Belka at the helm of the National Bank of Poland would help stabilize Poland as it faces a number of challenges: early presidential elections on June 20 to pick a successor to Kaczynski, and the aftermath of massive flooding that hit the country this month.
"This is about our common Polish currency, about monetary security for all of Poland," Komorowski said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president who is now running to replace him, said he did not object to Belka as a candidate, but criticized the timing of the move so soon before the presidential elections.
He also said the decision should not be made by an acting president, and that a position as important as central bank governor should be filled by the candidate who wins a popular mandate in the ballot.
Komorowski is the governing party's candidate for the presidency, while Kaczynski heads the main opposition party.