Poland: An economic miracle in progress

The fifteenth anniversary of Poland’s accession to the EU is an excellent occasion to talk about the future of Polish-Israeli business ties
Women with traditional wreaths on their heads take photos during midsummer celebrations on the banks of the Vistula river in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Women with traditional wreaths on their heads take photos during midsummer celebrations on the banks of the Vistula river in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

At first sight fifteen years is just a blip in the history of mankind. However, for Poland it’s been a period of amazing change. Since joining the European Union in 2004 we have undergone a transformation of biblical proportions.

But this success story had actually started 30 years ago, in 1989, when Poland finally shook off the yoke of Soviet oppression and ditched the command economy.

Millions of Poles were free to make use of their inherent entrepreneurial spirit. Capitalism thrived (not without its bumps and jolts) in the early years of the newly regained economic independence. Painful but indispensable reforms ensued. Admittedly, not everyone was happy with the transition, growth was not always distributed fairly, some areas lagged behind. However, the overall balance was extremely positive. And it was just a prelude to what happened after Poland officially returned to the family of European nations 15 years ago.

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The British economist Ronald Coase once famously said: ‘If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything’. Luckily, Polish economic indicators are clear and unambiguous. No need to apply any ‘enhanced measures’ for them to sing beautifully.

Since 2004 our GDP has more than doubled. The unemployment rate fell from nearly 20 percent to 3,5 percent (according to Eurostat), foreign direct investment rose from $ 10 billion in 2004 to $ 33 billion last year (in 2016 it was almost $ 62 billion) and its total level exceeds $ 200 billion. Public debt remains stable (approximately 50 percent of GDP), budget deficit is under control, inflation hasn’t been a concern for many years. GDP growth (5,1 percent in 2018, year-on-year) is a source of envy for most EU countries. As is the position of women in the labour market (a less known phenomenon). Poland is one of the best performers in the EU as regards gender pay gap (roughly 7 percent, while the EU average stands at 16 percent). In the annual Grant Thornton report “Women in Business” Poland is invariably ranked among the ten best countries globally for female managers.

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Myriad factors contributed to this impressive progress. Hard work of ordinary Poles and economic pragmatism of political leaders. EU funds and highly educated youth, open to innovation. Whereas Poland was not immune to social unrest, it was usually mild and short-lived.

Poland has become a magnet for companies from around the world. German and Japanese car makers, American aircraft manufacturers, South Korean electronic giants, French retailers. Hundreds of the most recognizable international brands cannot be wrong: investing in Poland is a no-brainer.

Many Israeli companies have also tasted the irresistible appeal of Poland’s business habitat. In Warsaw, Cracow, Gdansk and Poznan Israeli managers feel confident and secure. They appreciate the living standards and friendly environment. They ooze optimism.

Strengthening and deepening economic ties between Poland and Israel is the most efficient way to further mutual understanding and to build a better future for incoming generations. Polish and Israeli businessmen and businesswomen are audacious, perseverant, creative. They are not afraid of taking risks. You could hardly find a more appropriate match. Let us make this bond even more robust.

About the Author
Marek Magierowski is the Polish ambassador to Israel.
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