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UPDATE 1-Polish PM unveils big investment plan to ease downturn

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* Polish economy, rare EU bright spot, is slowing sharply

* Tusk says to use state assets to leverage investment

* Pledges to keep debt, deficit at safe levels

(Releads, adds reaction) By Dagmara Leszkowicz and Pawel Sobczak

WARSAW, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Donald Tuskannounced a big programme of investment on Friday aimed atreviving a spluttering economy and shoring up support fromvoters worried that two decades of uninterrupted growth iscoming to an end.

Tusk said he would find billions of euros for investment inenergy and other infra-structure projects, while at the sametime keeping a tight rein on government borrowing in Poland,eastern Europe's largest economy.

Poland has been a rare bright spot in Europe over the pastfew years, managing to sustain robust growth even while itsneighbours slumped. But growth will slow next year to just over2 percent, half the figure for last year.

"There is no other way for Poland than sustaining growththrough investments," Tusk told parliament. "Poland has a realchance to defend economic growth."

"We will fight to ensure debt and deficit stay at safelevels," he said in his first big, set-piece speech setting outthe government's response to the slowdown.

Investment in road-building and other infra-structureprojects has driven Polish growth up to now, yet the Europeancash that paid for it will dip over the next two years.Borrowing to fill the gap would drive up debt and dent Poland'sreputation for fiscal prudence.

The solution outlined by Tusk is to channel state-ownedassets, including company shares and privatisation revenue from2014, into a special fund which will use these assets tounderwrite private investment.

"According to calculations, which ministers Rostowski andBudzanowski will present in detail tomorrow, we should createleverage for investments and credits worth around 40 billionzlotys to 2015 and around 90 mld if we count over six years,"Tusk said.

FINDING CASH

Reuters reported last week that the government wasconsidering creation of a fund of this kind - broadly modelledon schemes already operating in Brazil and South Korea.

Under the scheme drafted in Poland, which will be run bystate-controlled bank BGK, the assets underwriting investmentwould be in a non-state vehicle and so would not be classifiedas debt, allowing the government to meet its targets for cuttingborrowing.

"The Prime Minister managed to solve a few problems. Heannounced a major investment programme that will underpin theeconomy," said Maciej Reluga, chief economist at Bank ZachodniWBK.

"At the same time, he offered a mechanism that will ensuredebt and deficit levels aren't affected. Rating agencies andmarkets should be happy."

Poland is the only country in the EU that did not slip intorecession since the start of the global financial crisis fouryears ago.

But the global downturn is now making itself felt.Unemployment is ticking up. Offices and apartments built on awave of confidence in Poland's "economic miracle" are nowstanding empty.

The slowdown has hurt Tusk's popularity, with polls showinghis party had been overtaken by the opposition Law and JusticeParty. Fading public support could make it harder for him tohold together his governing coalition between now and the nextelection in three years.

In a measure likely to please voters, Tusk announced thatmaternity leave would be extended and more help provided tofamilies with children. That was met with a round of applausefrom lawmakers listening to the speech.

"It'a good anti-crisis and pro-family instrument," saidMalgorzata Krzysztoszek, economist with the Lewiatan businesslobby. "The prime minister told Poles: 'Hey, the labour marketis tough but you can wait it out. Your job will be protected, gohave a baby'."

($1 = 3.1604 Polish zlotys)

(Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig, Karolina Slowikowska,Adrian Krajewski; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by PatrickGraham)

((christian.lowe@thomsonreuters.com))

Keywords: POLAND TUSK/